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Views: Springfield looking for another tax grab

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Hang on to your pocketbooks, the politicians are getting restless.

They want more of your money.

Never mind that the Illinois Legislature jacked up your taxes by 67 percent back in 2011.

Because of this temporary tax hike, many of us are now paying a full 5 percent of our income to Springfield. But at least the bulk of this tax increase is set to expire in January 2015.

Now they are looking at another tax grab. And this time they are doing it under the guise of “fairness.”

Government worker unions and their political allies are pushing hard for a graduated, or “progressive,” income tax.

What this would mean is that instead of everyone paying the same percentage of his income to the state, the percentage would stair step up as a person earns more money.

But supporters of this idea face a big obstacle: the Illinois Constitution.

The constitution mandates that the state levy the same percentage rate from all taxpayers.

The state is looking for ways to collect more, but the politicians can’t just come out and say that so they are using code words like “equitable” or “fair.”

The fact of the matter is, the state already has a progressive income tax.

Don’t believe me?

Well, just consider these numbers:

• A household earning $15,000 in Illinois pays on average 1.9 percent of its income to the state.

• A family earning $30,000 pays 2.9 percent.

• A taxpayer earning $75,000 pays 3.8 percent.

What’s happening here is something called the “earned income tax credit.”

Illinois already has a means to give tax breaks to lower-income people and has been employing it quite aggressively for many years.

So this progressive income tax isn’t about giving relief to poor folks – it’s about making middle-class and upper-income people pay more.

In January the state income tax rate is slated to drop to 3.75 percent from its current temporary level of 5 percent.

But guess what? Under a proposal by state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Champaign, every Illinois family earning $18,000 or more would pay a top rate of 4 percent or more.

I’ve never considered a household making $18,000 per year to be rich. Her plan calls for every family earning more than $58,000 to pay a top rate of 6 percent, which is a higher top rate than the current temporary top rate.

And the rates keep ratcheting up from there to a full 9 percent.

In fairness, that is just one of the proposals involving a progressive income tax.

A progressive tax isn’t about tax relief for the poor – we already do that through the earned income tax credit.

It’s about collecting more money from more people, folks like you and me.

• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute.

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