Editorials

Progressive tax may be dead, but Illinois' progressives likely to seek resurrection

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner saw a win this past week as 50 Illinois House Republicans signed on to a resolution to block a progressive tax. He said taking more money from Illinoisans would be an economy killer.
Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner saw a win this past week as 50 Illinois House Republicans signed on to a resolution to block a progressive tax. He said taking more money from Illinoisans would be an economy killer.

Illinois Republicans just scored a rare victory on behalf of taxpayers, likely killing any effort to get a progressive tax on the Nov. 6 ballot.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, wrangled 50 colleagues to sign on to a resolution opposing a progressive tax. House Democrats were pushing a ballot initiative to change the Illinois Constitution, but they needed 71 representatives to vote for it. Simple math: 118 minus 50 is 68, which isn't enough to put a constitutional question on the ballot.

Durkin said a progressive tax would feed the addictions of Democratic lawmakers.

"We must change the customary practice of the General Assembly: Spend now, pay later," he said.

Getting the Republicans in line was especially important after some broke ranks to help Democrats override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the $5 billion state income tax hike. The flat rate went to 4.95 percent in exchange for the first state budget in two years, costing the average local family $1,205 a year more.

"The Democrats’ progressive income tax is a calculated killer: it kills jobs and businesses and, ultimately, it will kill the middle class," Rauner said after the Republican resolution announcement. "It has been less than a year since Illinois families were forced to begin paying for the 32 percent income tax hike I opposed. We need to send a message that emptying our citizens’ pockets with new taxes is not the solution to our problems. Instead of forcing families to fork over more of their hard-earned money to the government through a progressive tax, let’s build our economy, grow jobs and put money into their pockets."

You've heard it before, but this is a drum that needs beating: High taxes are killing Illinois.

Being the most-taxed state in the nation would not necessarily be a problem if we were investing in our future by putting the money into our schools, but we are the very last state in the nation for state funding of education. Instead, we invest in the future of state employees with 25 cents of every state budget dollar going to their pensions.

Even that is not enough, and we owe them $130 billion for pensions and a total of $200 billion when their retiree health care costs are included.

Why in the world would state lawmakers and their gubernatorial candidate, J.B. Pritzker, be talking about a progressive tax if it were not a path to more of your money? Why aren't they talking about how to fix the reason they need more of your money — the state pension systems?

It's a rhetorical question, folks. You know why they don't talk about the root of the problem: They are the root, along with their unholy alliance with the state employees' unions that keep their campaigns fed.

Correction: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly listed state Rep. Charlie Meier as one of the Republicans who helped override the governor's tax hike veto. Meier voted for the hike initially, but did not vote in favor of the override.

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