Springfield, IL. – A proposal to radically change Illinois’ income tax dominated much of the discussion at the Capitol during the week, as the measure moved from committee to the Senate Floor. Other news includes, McHenry County firefighters, my first Townhall-by-Phone, and scholarships for women looking to return to college.
Taxpayer Alert! Income Tax Increase Amendment Moves Forward
During the week, the majority party in the Illinois Senate advanced, out of committee, a proposal to radically change the state income tax from a flat tax to a graduated or progressive tax system, which provides no protections for middle-income families and would give those lawmakers the ability to raise taxes in the future.
The graduated rate income tax scheme being offered by the Governor and Democrats will punish success. Unfortunately, the proposal is being promoted in a way that pits groups of people against one another – a tax hike advertised as being only on the wealthy.
Our tax system is fair, when everyone pays the same rate. If you earn more, you will pay more. If you earn less, you will pay less. The fairness is in the same rate and not imposing higher rates on some people and lower rates on others.
There’s no doubt Illinois’ fiscal crisis needs to be addressed, but why is a tax increase always the first and only choice? The dirty little secret is our financial problems were self-imposed. We’ve had years of runaway government, as Springfield enlarged itself on the backs of taxpayers.
We can’t tax our way to prosperity. Two previous massive tax increases in 2011 and 2018 haven’t solved our problems. Promises were made to balance the budget, pay old bills and restore the state’s economy. None of those promises were realized. The latest false promise is that a graduated or progressive income tax will protect taxpayers. However, there is nothing about this proposal that will protect the middle class from future tax hikes.
The Governor’s own words are a clue to where we are heading with this proposed amendment. When asked if he’d support protecting middle income families from future tax increases, the Governor said: “…this is something that future legislatures and governors will make about what the rates should be…the future is unknown, and so you want to make sure they have the options available in this constitution.”
Additionally, testifying before the Senate Executive Committee April 10, Deputy Governor Dan Hynes was unable to give middle-income taxpayers any assurance that these rates would remain level in coming years. So, at least for now, it’s clear there is no commitment from the administration that it would not seek to raise income tax rates down the road.
In reality, passing this graduated or progressive income tax gives government a blank check to raise rates again and again and again.
This is why I support another proposed amendment to the state constitution, introduced by my colleague Senator Dan McConchie. This proposal really protects middle class taxpayers by making it tougher to pass tax hikes. Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 12 would require a two-thirds vote of the Illinois General Assembly before any increases or new taxes are imposed. Since Illinois is one of the top states in the nation for overall tax burden, according to a recent state-by-state ranking, having a higher, more difficult-to-pass standard is justified.
It will take a super majority of votes to advance the graduated or progressive tax scheme through the General Assembly and place it on the 2020 ballot. It should also take a super majority to raise rates in the future.
This debate over the income tax amendment reminds me of one of President Ronald Reagan’s famous quotes. Although he was commenting about Congress, I think it could apply to the Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly as well: “It’s been said that taxation is the art of plucking the feathers without killing the bird.”
I’m afraid, the bird (typical Illinois taxpayer) won’t be able to survive the plucking.
McHenry County Firefighters
Also during the week, a legislative measure (Senate Bill 37) came up for a vote by the full Senate that could harm smaller and volunteer fire departments by burdening them with additional pension costs.
Senate Bill 37 imposes additional firefighter pension costs on departments for service performed by their employees with a second fire department. I have several concerns. Some departments may not be able to afford these additional mandated operating costs, requiring the departments to cut the number of firefighters employed and/or services to the public. Also, property taxpayers could be on the hook for the added costs.
I voted against SB 37, telling my colleagues during debate the legislation could potentially eliminate the ability for career firefighters to also serve their home communities. A third of the firefighters who serve with the McHenry Township Fire Protection District also work with a second fire department. The bill was approved on a vote of 39 to 10, and now goes to the House for consideration.
My first Teleforum conference call was Tuesday, April 9. If you were one of the many people who participated, I thank you. The call reached more than 12,000 residents in the 32nd District, who had a chance to listen in and be part of the Townhall–by-Phone. We discussed important issues and concerns for about an hour, and I took questions about healthcare, term limits, illegal immigration, taxes, public pensions and crime.
A nonscientific poll on two hot issues was also part of the Teleforum. Here are the results:
Should Illinois legalize marijuana for recreational use?
No – 48%
Yes – 41%
Undecided or No opinion – 11%
Should Illinois keep its current flat tax income tax, where everyone pays the same percentage rate, rather than switch to a progressive tax system where you would pay an ever-larger percentage of your income in taxes as your income increases?
Yes – 71%
No – 29%
Undecided/No opinion – 0%
Visiting with President Abraham Lincoln
I got up close and personal with President Abraham Lincoln this week—well, not personally, but I did spend an evening with my fellow Senators getting to know the 16th President by viewing personal and historic items housed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Senators, from both sides of the aisle visited the museum the evening of April 11. The visit included the opportunity to look over a number of Lincoln artifacts, including the most historical item of all – an original hand-written copy of the Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (pictured left). The museum’s “Lincoln Collection” numbers more than 52,000 artifacts and documents. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is the most visited Presidential Library in the nation.
Women Legislators Sponsor Scholarship Program
Women seeking to earn a college degree are urged to submit an application for the Conference of Women Legislators 2019-2020 Scholarship Award Program. The scholarship program assists Illinois women, 25 years or older, who are seeking to earn undergraduate college degrees. Scholarships of $2,500 each will be awarded. Applications must be postmarked or emailed by April 30. Awardees will be notified by May 31. All scholarship materials may be downloaded at https://cowlil.com/illinois-womens-scholarship-fund/.
Meet and Greet
Don’t forget, Senator Dan McConchie and I are host a Conversations Untapped event at Crystal Lake Brewing, 150 North Main Street on April 26. Join us for discussions on state and local issues. It’s also an opportunity to offer your thoughts, ideas and concerns on issues that matter to you. No reservation is needed. We’ll be at Crystal Lake Brewing from 5 to 6 p.m.
Keep In Touch/Stay Informed
If you can’t make our Conversations Untapped event, there are other ways to keep in touch with me. Call my district or Capitol offices: 815/455-6330 or 217/782-8000. You can also email me at email@example.com.
I also have a legislative website at www.senatorwilcox.com, where I post news from the Capitol. You can also sign up for my free newsletter, read our Founding Documents, and connect to state government agencies and resources. There’s also an extensive list of sites veterans can use to connect to employment, education, service records and more.