Fair Tax Amendment on November Ballots

Fair Tax
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Voters will see a statewide referendum on November 3 ballots for the Fair Tax amendment, deciding whether Illinois should adopt a graduated tax system.

The measure was passed in the state legislature but requires at least 60% support among those voting on the referendum or at least 50% support in all ballots cast in the election.

Illinois’ Current Tax System

Illinois is one of nine states with a flat income tax. Every resident’s income is currently taxed at 4.95%. If passed via referendum, the amendment would give legislators the ability to raise taxes on higher earners and lower taxes on middle- and lower-income earners.

Fair Tax

A screenshot from the League of Women Voters’ presentation showing the current flat tax system and how taxes would work under the proposed graduated tax system. (Click to enlarge)

The League of Women Voters, which doesn’t endorse candidates but does take positions on important public issues, supports the amendment and said only the highest earners in Illinois would see a tax hike.

According to their presentation, which used proposed tax bracket percentages, every dollar after an earner’s first $250,000 of income would be taxed at a greater percentage than the current flat rate. However, single-filers making more than $750,000 and joint-filers making more than $1 million will be taxed at 7.99% on every taxable dollar they earn.

41st District Candidate Forum

On September 23, the policy came up during a candidate forum for Illinois’ 41st district seat. The League of Women Voters invited Republican incumbent Grant Wehrli and Democratic challenger Janet Yang Rohr to participate.

“I am opposed to the graduated tax on this November’s ballot,” said Wehrli. “Simply asking for more money is not the solution. What we need to look at is how we’re spending money. This year’s budget spent $2 billion more than the previous year’s budget. That’s in the height of a pandemic. This budget also relies on revenue that isn’t actually there. We’re spending money we don’t have.”

Rohr took the opposite stance.

“Under the graduated tax, almost every single one of us would see our tax bills go down – that’s the simple truth,” said Yang Rohr. “It will raise money to address the issues [Rep. Wehrli] says he cares about like education, like funds for the developmental disabled. These are funds we need to cover and when we say cut 10% here or there, what we’re doing is we’re cutting those very programs that he professes care so much about.”

Support and Opposition

The group Vote Yes for Fairness argues that the current system allows millionaires and billionaires to pay the same rate as lower- and middle-class families. They say that 97% of Illinoisans would see their taxes lower or remain the same.

Groups opposed to the Fair Tax amendment, like the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment, agree with Wehrli, that Springfield doesn’t need more money, but that the state needs to better manage its finances. They also say the bill would allow legislators to increase taxes in the future.

The Question

The referendum question reads:

“The proposed amendment grants the state authority to impose higher income tax rates on higher income levels, which is how the federal government and a majority of other states do it. The amendment would remove the portion of the Revenue Article of the Illinois Constitution that is sometimes referred to as the ‘flat tax,’ that requires all taxes on income to be at the same rate. The amendment does not itself change tax rates. It gives the State the ability to impose higher tax rates on those with higher income levels and lower tax rates on those with middle or lower income levels. You are asked to decide whether the proposed amendment should become a part of the Illinois Constitution.”

A “yes” vote indicates support for the Fair Tax amendment, while a “no” vote opposes the amendment.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.


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