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Battle heats up over graduated income tax question on November ballot

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Springfield, IL (CAPITOL BUREAU) - The campaigns are ramping up in the fight over the graduated income tax question on Illinois ballots this November. The new coalition against the "Fair Tax" says Illinoisans can't afford another tax hike, as many struggle to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, advocates for the progressive tax structure say millionaires and billionaires have benefited from the flat tax structure for far too long.

The Vote No On The Progressive Tax Coalition says Gov. JB Pritzker's plan will hurt Illinois workers and families. They're afraid the "Fair Tax" would help lawmakers raise taxes on the middle class and working poor to cover Springfield spending.

"We anticipate this coalition will grow to dozens, and we hope to get to more than a hundred organizations as more and more individuals learn about the negative aspects of the so-called Fair Tax," said Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Todd Maisch.

Anti-"Fair Tax" group growing

From Chicago to Auburn to Peoria and Rockford, the coalition against Gov. JB Pritzker's graduated income tax amendment is growing. Maisch says the progressive tax will kill jobs and hurt growth aspects for future generations in Illinois. The Illinois Farm Bureau agrees.

"It's a farce to believe that we can just tax the top three percent of income earners over and over again in order to cover our state's growing spending habits," IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. said. He believes higher earners will shift their assets out of state and use their resources to avoid Pritzker's tax, leaving the rest of taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Those fighting for the Fair Tax say that's not the case.

"Do you make more than $250,000 or do you make less than that? If you make less than that, the Fair Tax will benefit you," said Vote Yes For Fairness Chairman Quentin Fulks. "At least 97% of all Illinoisans are going to see their taxes stay the same or a lot of them are going to see a tax cut."

What is equitable?

The coalition says the current flat tax structure is the "definition of equitable." However, their opponent argues that's far from the truth.

"Nothing about their's seems fair or equitable to me. But, you know, again, it's just a play on words to try to be cute by half. They know the taxes in Illinois are anything but fair," Fulks explained. "Fairness is having people pay what they can afford to pay, and we're simply asking for fairness."

National Federation of Independent Business Illinois Leadership Council Chair Cindy Neal says Illinois will continue to have a spending problem. "The politicians who are responsible for our state's abysmal financial situation are not motivated enough to stop the unbridled spending."

Fulks counters Neal's argument by asking voters to look for resources to learn about the flat tax and progressive tax to form their own opinion. "I am confident that when voters hear about the benefits of the Fair Tax and what it will actually do for each and every one of them on an individual basis, they will support it."

Pritzker dropped $51.5 million into the Vote Yes For Fairness campaign over the holiday weekend, and ads are already online supporting his cause. The anti-graduated income tax group has money coming in, but they know it won't top Pritzker's funding.

"The important things is we don't need to match the proponent's spending. We only have to go ahead and be competitive. We don't need to spend dollar for dollar because this is frankly an unpopular idea once voters figure out what's really going on," Maisch said. "If the proponents were certain that they had this in the bag, would they have written a $51 million check? I don't think so."

Mike Miletich

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