Rural, downstate counties to benefit most from Pritzker 'fair tax'
More than half of Illinois counties will see just 1 percent of residents pay more
By Ted Cox
Rural and downstate counties will enjoy the greatest benefits from Gov. Pritzker’s “fair tax” plan, according to data released Thursday by the Governor’s Office.
While Pritzker has maintained that 97 percent of Illinoisans will pay the same or a lower income tax under his proposal to adopt a progressive tax, his office said Thursday that more than half of all Illinois counties will see just 1 percent of residents pay more to the state.
Typical was Rock Island County, including the Quad Cities, but also farms inland from the Mississippi River. According to the Governor’s Office, 99.1 percent of county residents will pay the same or less, while just 0.1 percent of residents pay the top rate of 7.95 percent set for million-dollar earners.
Kankakee County will also see 99.1 percent of residents pay the same or less, while just 0.07 percent pay the top millionaire rate, as will Carroll County, including Savanna on the Mississippi. LaSalle County, including Ottawa, will also see 99.1 percent of residents benefit, while 0.08 percent pay the top rate.
Vermillion County, including Danville, meanwhile, will see 99.4 percent of taxpayers pay the same or less, while just 0.05 percent pay the top rate.
According to the Governor’s Office, projected from data from the 2016 tax year, with 5.7 million filers statewide, 5.5 million, 97 percent, would pay the same or less, while 18,000 millionaires would pay the top rate.
Several members of the General Assembly weighed in on the graduated income tax Thursday at a news conference in Springfield. Sen. Toi Hutchinson echoed Pritzker in stating that the choice was between adopting the new tax, cutting essential government services, or raising the current flat tax for all taxpayers.
“Taxpayers have three choices,” Hutchinson said. “They can say they’re OK with slashing funding for schools, universities, and senior services, which would raise property taxes. They can say they’re OK with a 20 percent tax increase for every Illinoisan. Or we can update our income-tax structure so that the wealthiest 3 percent of Illinoisans pay more.”
The Chicago Heights Democrat immediately added, “I think it’s crystal clear that a fair, modern tax system is the direction we should go.”
“I think it’s crystal clear that a fair, modern tax system is the direction we should go.”
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson
“After years of Republicans’ crisis, Illinois can move forward toward fairness and stability, or we can continue down the path of crisis and destructive cuts,” said Rep. Mike Zalewski of Riverside, chairman of the House Revenue and Finance Committee.
“Without a fair tax, nearly 17,000 seniors would lose access to Meals on Wheels, 13,000 families will be kicked off Early Intervention, and 2,300 women would lose access to lifesaving breast-cancer screenings. We choose the path of fair taxes — a path that restores fiscal stability, allows us to pay off old bills, and invest in critical resources like schools and health care — all while providing tax relief for 97 percent of Illinois taxpayers.”
Rural counties stood to benefit most, according to a county-by-county breakdown provided by the Governor’s Office. Cairo’s Alexander County was projected to see 99.8 percent of taxpayers pay less, while just 0.02 percent pay the top rate. Pulaski County also will see 99.8 percent pay the same or less, while 0.2 percent pay the top rate. The same 99.8 percent figure applies to Johnson County, where 0.1 percent will pay the top rate. Pope County, Brown County, and Franklin County will see 99.6 percent pay the same or less, while 0.4 percent pay the top rate in Pope, 0.2 percent in Brown, and 0.04 percent in Franklin. Macoupin County, including Bunker Hill, will see 99.5 percent pay the same or less, again with 0.02 percent paying the top rate. Shelby County will see 99.5 percent pay the same or less, while 0.05 percent pay the top rate. Wayne County and Union County will both see 99.4 percent of taxpayers pay the same or less, while 0.07 percent pay the top rate.
Counties where less that 97 percent of taxpayers would see benefits were concentrated around Chicago, including Cook, DuPage, and Lake. That, of course, was because they have a higher concentration of people earning more than $250,000 a year. [Data showing that DeWitt County, including Clinton, saw the lowest percentage of those benefitting, 90.1 percent, turned out to be a misprint. The Governor’s Office corrected that 99.1 percent of county residents would pay the same or less, while 0.08 percent would pay the top rate.]
Disinformation on the tax plan persisted, however. Capitol Fax reported Wednesday that the dark-money conservative group Ideas Illinois and the Illinois News Network were calling it a “jobs tax,” without presenting any foundation for that, while the Illinois Policy Institute muddied the waters with wonky projections based on varying levels of future economic growth.
Pritzker has insisted: “I respect the rights of opponents to disagree with this proposal, but they should do so in good faith, with a specific counterproposal, not pie in the sky.”
“Republicans reject the fair tax approach, which means they reject reforming our unfair tax system that disproportionately benefits the wealthy,” said Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill at Thursday’s news conference. He pointed out the Senate changed its rules this session so that Republicans can more easily have their budget proposals heard, and he called on them to deliver, saying, “I pledge that if Republicans submit their complete, balanced budget, our appropriations committee will conduct hearings on their plan and consider the cuts and sacrifices Republicans are willing to make.”
Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park, sponsor of the bill to amend the state constitution to allow a graduated income tax, said he didn’t expect Republicans to meet that challenge.
“Opponents of a fair tax are working to protect their wealthy donors at the expense of the middle class by keeping our current, unfair tax system in place,” he said. “Implementing a modern, fair tax will benefit the majority of Illinoisans, not the few who make the most.”