Brady: Fair tax 'must be defeated'
Senate minority leader lauds bipartisan approach — but only up to a point
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — Bill Brady, the Senate minority leader in the General Assembly, lauded a bipartisan approach seeking compromise between Democrats and Republicans, but only up to a point Tuesday, declaring that a progressive income tax “must be defeated” at the ballot box in November 2020.
Brady made the remarks at the City Club of Chicago Tuesday. Saying, “It’s nice of you to invite Republicans every once in a while,” he defended the bipartisan approach he took toward compromise along with House Minority Leader Jim Durkin during the spring session in the General Assembly.
“Last November Republicans didn’t do so well in Illinois,” Brady acknowledged. “There were people in our own party in this state who thought … we should take a fire-and-brimstone approach” and oppose everything proposed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic supermajorities in both chambers.
Instead, Brady added, he and Durkin decided “there were too many big issues facing the state, that we had to at least try to work in a bipartisan fashion.”
Brady said, “We came to the table — we didn't seek to overturn it — to find common ground.”
Brady lauded compromises that produced additional funding for public education, senior care, and the Department of Children and Family Services. He said Republicans fought for the preservation of a controversial tax-credit scholarship program for private schools, calling the five-year pilot program “very important to us when we reformed education funding” two years ago.
He cheered the small-business reforms Pritzker agreed to, and he fully endorsed the $45 billion capital spending plan that passed.
“We knew that we needed to have an infrastructure program,” Brady said. “Illinois is in desperate need of a reinvestment in our infrastructure.”
In general, he added, “We think we were able to do a lot of good things by being at the table.”
“We came to the table — we didn't seek to overturn it — to find common ground.”
State Sen. Bill Brady (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
But he drew the line at a $15-an-hour minimum wage “we think will hurt job creation,” the legalization of marijuana, the Reproductive Health Act affirming abortion rights, and most of all at the “fair tax” Pritzker has proposed, which needs final approval in a constitutional amendment through a voter referendum in the next general election in November 2020.
The Bloomington Republican and 2010 gubernatorial candidate defended the current “flat and fair tax” Illinois operates under, and attacked the proposed graduated income tax as a “$3 billion tax increase” offering “no safeguards” for middle-income families and no assurances that added revenue would be passed along to provide relief on property taxes.
Brady said he expected President Trump to do better in Illinois than he did in 2016, because of the economy, adding, “Nancy Pelosi’s going to have a tough time keeping the Democrats from impeaching Donald Trump,” with uncertain results. But he said his main focus in November 2020 would be on “prohibiting this $3 billion tax increase.”
With any hopes of addressing property-tax relief and pension reform hinging on adoption of the progressive income tax — with that $3 billion in added revenue to be paid by the top 3 percent of state wage earners making $250,000 a year or more — Brady was asked what he would do if it failed at the ballot box.
“The best proposal to pay for anything is economic growth,” he said, but he offered no magic solutions to produce that growth and no assurances of the sort he’s demanding of Pritzker.
Pritzker has agreed to debate the graduated income tax, but only if proponents present realistic alternatives. The proposed tax brackets he’s already signed into law, if the constitutional amendment is approved, are intended to provide voters with security on what they’re voting on. He’s insisted that maintaining a flat tax rate would mean either a 20 percent tax increase for all Illinois taxpayers or 15 percent spending cuts across the board in public safety, education, and other essential social programs.
Brady also advocated for a “fair map” when election districts are redrawn following the 2020 U.S. Census, saying, “Illinois has to put an end to gerrymandering districts,” adding, “We want to lead the fight on that.”
Critics, however, have insisted that redistricting is an issue that has to be taken up on a national level, so that both so-called Red States and Blue States are reforming the process at the same time.
For all that, Brady applauded the governor’s $40 billion state budget for the next fiscal year, calling it “as balanced as any budget we’ve seen over the last couple of decades” and “probably the most balanced budget I didn’t vote for.”
And he insisted that Republicans in the General Assembly would continue to work to compromise on most issues, saying that the Republican Caucus “cares deeply about the entire state and will continue, I believe, to work in a bipartisan fashion to make this state a better place.”