Fair tax presents best path forward for Illinois

03282019CM0363RSPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers in the Senate and House on Thursday presented a series of choices facing Illinois taxpayers as the state continues to dig out from an economic downturn and four years of turmoil under the previous governor.

“Taxpayers have three choices. They can say they’re OK with slashing funding for schools, universities and senior services, which would raise property taxes. They can say they’re OK with a 20 percent tax increase for every Illinoisan. Or we can update our income tax structure so that the wealthiest 3 percent of Illinoisans pay more,” said State Senator Toi Hutchinson, chair of the Senate Revenue Committee and a Chicago Heights Democrat. “I think it’s crystal clear that a fair, modern tax system is the direction we should go.”

Hutchinson was among the lawmakers who gathered Thursday at the Capitol to lay out the options for taxpayers and discuss the merits of a fair tax system in Illinois. Joining her were State Senators Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), and State Representatives Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) and Arthur Turner (D-Chicago).

“After years of Republicans’ crisis, Illinois can move forward toward fairness and stability, or we can continue down the path of crisis and destructive cuts,” Zalewski, chair of the House Revenue and Finance Committee, said.

“Without a fair tax, nearly 17,000 seniors would lose access to Meals on Wheels, 13,000 families will be kicked off Early Intervention, and 2,300 women would lose access to lifesaving breast cancer screenings. We choose the path of fair taxes; a path that restores fiscal stability, allows us to pay off old bills, and invest in critical resources like schools and health care – all while providing tax relief for 97 percent of Illinois taxpayers.”

Manar said that despite Republican criticism of the fair tax proposal, GOP lawmakers have failed to put forth a plan of their own in the 36 days since the governor’s budget address.

“Republicans reject the fair tax approach, which means they reject reforming our unfair tax system that disproportionately benefits the wealthy,” he said. Manar noted that the Senate even changed its rules this session so that Republicans can more easily have their budget proposals heard – cuts, revenue and all.

“I pledge that if Republicans submit their complete, balanced budget, our appropriations committee will conduct hearings on their plan and consider the cuts and sacrifices Republicans are willing to make,” said Manar, who chairs one of the Senate’s two budget committees.

Harmon, who is the sponsor of legislation to amend the Constitution to allow for a fair tax, said he expects lawmakers will introduce legislation this spring that sets specific tax structure rates.

“Opponents of a fair tax are working to protect their wealthy donors at the expense of the middle class by keeping our current, unfair tax system in place,” he said. “Implementing a modern, fair tax will benefit the majority of Illinoisans, not the few who make the most.”

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