By Mary Coen

First off, let me be clear. We must all understand the benefits of passing the Fair Tax Amendment.  We must know how to respond to false claims made by right-wing organization like the Illinois Policy Institute. The Fair Tax is the first item on the ballot. We must vote Yes to pass the Fair Tax Amendment. The fiscal health of Illinois depends on it!

The inevitability of taxes – it has been pointed out many times that the dues for living in a society will always be with us. The real difficulty is trying to design a fair and efficient system in an environment that is constantly changing. In Illinois we are considering changing our system: Governor Pritzker has proposed that we amend the state constitution to allow a “fair tax”, a graduated schedule of the tax rate increasing as incomes go up, as the federal taxes do. The majority of states, 33 to date, currently use a formula like this. Illinois uses a flat rate for all, from the lowest income earners to billionaires paying the same percentage.  The theory behind a graduated rate is that the higher income earners have many times more than the amount of money necessary for sustaining life, thus their excess income should be taxed at a higher rate. (There are many examples of conventional wisdom that call for this; the ” to whom much has been given, much will be expected” school of thought).

Very few subjects provoke as much controversy as “how” and “how much” we tax. And yet very few of us are fluent in “tax talk”.  It is very easy to become thoroughly confused by differing so-called experts who manage to present exactly contradictory expert opinions. I have to fall back on what I think of as basically most fair to the most people, and our state constitution as it is does not allow for our system to be changed to provide for that. So, at the very least I will vote yes to the amendment for that reason. And I do also believe that a graduated tax is a more equitable system than a flat rate one. Maybe in a perfectly just society where all playing fields were equal, a flat rate might suffice, but we certainly do not have that. A graduated tax system comes closest to “fair”.

With the Fair Tax, unless you are a couple making more than $250,000 per year you will not have a tax raise. People move in and out of states for various reasons and according to research in census configuration, those reasons are more complex than just tax rates. Adjustments in all financial fields are continuously called for, tax rates included. But we first need to be able to create that graduated tax system. That means voting yes for the amendment.

There are many articles posted out there authored by the Illinois Policy organization, well written, and very much against the fair tax proposal. Be aware that their ideal, as stated in preferred comparisons, is NO state income tax. Keep in mind what happened to Kansas when it tried that in 2012.

Things to keep in mind: Economics is not simple. Taxes are a balancing act between real estate, sales and income. Flat rates used in real estate and sales are not appropriate to income. And even tax hikes do not always predict a hurting economy: before the 1980’s the top income tax bracket was over 70%, and the economy kept rolling on.  “Small businesses” in economic speak can refer to those that have up to 500 employees, NOT just local Mom-and-Pops. Illinois has a lot of financial mess to sort out–the least we can do to help is to vote for a fairer tax system.