Policy analyst argues progressive tax isn't progress and would make Illinois misery worse
House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) wants to ensure he controls Illinois well into the future by enacting a progressive tax in Illinois, according to Austin Berg, the director of content for the Illinois Policy Institute.
The tax would require a change to the Illinois Constitution and is endorsed by the major 2018 Democratic candidates for governor: J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy and Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston).
Under the plan, the state would go from a flat tax, in which every taxpayer essentially pays an equal percentage of their income, to a system that taxes based on income.
Berg opines that Madigan, in power since 1970, undeniably stands as the biggest winner.
“The progressive income tax enjoys political support among Illinois Democrats for three reasons: it preys on struggling Illinoisans’ worst instincts; it would transform the political battlefield in Madigan’s favor for the foreseeable future; and it would shift the spotlight away from Springfield’s scandalous spending priorities,” Berg argues.
According to the Berg, a progressive tax has its roots in a 2010 report by the union-backed Center for Tax and Budget Accountability in which researchers insisted the cash-strapped state can’t manage to keep its books balanced because taxpayers don’t pump enough into the system.
In 2014, state lawmakers sought to institute the so-called fair tax that Berg asserts would have meant bigger taxes for anyone making more than $22,000 a year.
By 2016, Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who also serves as assistant majority leader under Madigan, was back on the case, filing a bill highlighted by an almost $2 billion tax hike that more than doubled the top personal income.
"It failed," Berg said. "One reason was that Illinoisans realized Lang was peddling snake oil. Progressive tax structures are a Trojan horse for middle-class tax hikes."
Back then, of the 33 states that had progressive income tax systems, 31 handcuffed the middle class with a higher rate than Illinois’ 3.75 percent.
Earlier this year, at least some of the same coalition of lawmakers behind the progressive tax movement rammed through a record-setting $36.1 spending plan that carries a permanent 32 percent income-tax hike.
“That makes the progressive tax structure an easier sell, as politicians can claim they’ll reduce the tax burden on the middle class by increasing the tax burden on the rich,” Berg said. “Don’t be tricked.”
Through it all, Illinois continues to struggle with out-migration rates among the highest in the country.
The Chicago Tribune reported that in 2016, the state lost more residents than any other state for the third straight year.
In all, 37,508 people fled Illinois that year, leaving the state with roughly its lowest population in more than a decade, at 12,801,539 people, and making it one of just eight states to lose residents.