Progressives rip 'giveaway' on estate tax
House Dems say attempt at compromise defeats intent of Gov. Pritzker’s ‘fair tax’
By Ted Cox
House progressives in the General Assembly are rejecting an apparent compromise that would end the state’s inheritance tax ahead of imposing a graduated income tax.
Sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago, Senate Bill 689, which would halt the Illinois estate tax in 2021, passed that chamber earlier this week along with a bill on a constitutional amendment to allow a progressive income tax and others setting those initial tax brackets and freezing property taxes. Cullerton cheered the package as “an overdue first step” toward tax reform that Gov. Pritzker has labeled a “fair tax.”
The bills had widespread Democrat support, including Sen. Elgie Sims Jr. of Chicago, who said, “It has long been time for millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.”
“Rates of income inequality are the highest they have been since 1928, the year preceding the Great Depression,” added Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago. “While the gap between the wealthiest Illinoisans and working and middle-class families continues to grow, the tax rate for everyone stays the same. Updating our tax structure will give us the flexibility to enact a system that is fair for everyone.”
Yet the House Progressive Caucus issued a statement in response saying that ending the estate tax undermines the very move toward fairness the graduated income tax is meant to address.
Saying they “strongly disagree with the passage of SB689,” 14 members of the House Progressive Caucus issued a joint statement that: “Our state is finally trying to fix its deeply unfair tax policy. We are finally asking the wealthy to pay their fair share in funding the basic operations of government. … We urge our colleagues to join us in opposing this giveaway to the wealthy few.”
Estimating that ending the inheritance tax would amount to “a $300 million tax cut to the estates of the super-rich,” they called it “a move in precisely the opposite direction.”
Senate Democrats said the estate tax “has increasingly been an issue in agriculture communities across Illinois.” Yet economists, such as Thomas Piketty in his book “Capital in the 21st Century,” have argued that it’s one of the most effective methods of addressing income inequality and leveling the economic playing field between rich and poor.
Representatives in the Progressive Caucus who signed the statement opposing SB689 included co-chairs Carol Ammons, Will Guzzardi, and Theresa Mah, as well as Celina Villanueva, Delia Ramirez, Kelly Cassidy, Robyn Gabel, Greg Harris, Joyce Mason, Anna Moeller, Aaron Ortiz, Lamont Robinson Jr., Anne Stava-Murray, and Maurice West II.
They might well ask whom the compromise is meant to appease. Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington voted against SB689, as did Sen. Chuck Weaver of North Peoria.
Just last month, Weaver joined in a debate with Guzzardi and Sims on the “fair tax” at the City Club of Chicago, and when Guzzardi argued that the rich weren’t fleeing the state because of taxes, and that the state was actually encouraging seniors to move here by not taxing retirement income, Weaver countered that they were leaving Illinois because of its estate tax.