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Doug Finke

Proponents say support builds to adopt graduated income tax

Campaign: Flat tax not fair to many Illinoisans

Campaign: Flat tax not fair to many Illinoisans

Supporters of a graduated income tax for Illinois said Monday they’ve collected more than 150,000 signatures from people who support changing the state’s flat income tax system.

Members of A Better Illinois said they plan to continue gathering signatures through the winter and spring in an effort to convince lawmakers to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot that would authorize a graduated income tax in the state.

“What we are asking for is that the politicians here in Springfield call this vote in the spring to allow the voters to have a say on this very important issue,” said Kristen Crowell, campaign director for A Better Illinois.

“We’re going to continue to collect signatures. Our goal is to turn in as many as possible from every single legislative district to demonstrate to lawmakers that a fair tax is wildly popular and supported by their constituents.”

The Illinois Constitution stipulates that the state will have a single tax rate that applies to everyone, regardless of income level.

The rate is currently set at 5 percent for individuals and 7 percent for corporations, although those rates are set to go down at the start of 2015.

Proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced in both the House and Senate that would allow the state to impose a graduated income tax, similar to what is done on the federal level. Neither of the proposed amendments sets out details of what rates would be charged to what income levels.

‘Pay according

to their ability’

“The basic concept is to ask people to pay according to their ability to pay,” said John Bouman, president of the Chicago-based Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. “There are a lot of different models to this. Under most of the versions people are looking at, a majority of households would actually get a reduction. Where the cutoff points are for the various tax rates aren’t clear yet, but that will become clear as the process goes ahead.”

The Senate resolution has 24 co-sponsors, while the House resolution has 37. In order to be placed on next year’s ballot, a resolution would have to be approved by a three-fifths supermajority of each chamber. That’s 36 votes in the Senate and 71 in the House. No lawmakers appeared at A Better Illinois’ news conference at the Statehouse.

“Today is not about politicians,” Crowell said. “Today is about real people who are calling on legislators to do the right thing.”

Resolutions also have been introduced in both the House and Senate calling on the Legislature to oppose any change to a graduated income tax. The Senate resolution opposing the graduated tax is co-sponsored by all 19 Republican members. The House resolution is co-sponsored by 46 members, just shy of the number needed to block a constitutional amendment from being placed on the ballot.

Smallish crowd

Fewer than two dozen people appeared at the A Better Illinois event. Teresa Haley, president of the Springfield NAACP, said the graduated tax is a matter of fairness.

“If I make $20,000 a year, I should not be taxed at the same rate as someone who makes $120,000 a year,” she said.

Paul Trimmer, owner of a small roofing company in Macomb, said the state often grants tax breaks to large companies, which takes away money needed for education and other programs.

“With tax breaks and unjust incentives, with a flat tax, the state subsidizes the higher incomes on the backs of those with middle and lower income,” he said.

“I’m here today to ask that the politicians call this bill and let people like me vote on a fair tax act where there are lower rates for lower incomes and higher rates for higher incomes.”