A graduated income tax is right for Illinois

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Gov. Bruce Rauner reaches out to shake hands with House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, right middle, and Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, after delivering his budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly Feb. 14, at at the Capitol in Springfield, Ill. | ( Rich Saal / The State Journal-Register via AP)

Recently, I had the pleasure of testifying in front of the Illinois House Revenue Committee. Although the point of the hearing was to gauge support for the Fair Tax Amendment, many other issues were brought up. Many speakers (myself included) from various social service agencies brought up the need for more state funding. Speakers from economic think tanks and from the League of Women Voters brought up points about the need to change the Illinois taxing structure from regressive to progressive.

Many points were made that were parts of old arguments: Conservatives worry that extra taxes on the wealthy would drive them to other states and liberals worry about the fairness of a flat tax on folks with low incomes. Neither side was very much moved by the other’s arguments.

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But one point was made by both parties that needs repeating: Illinois needs many economic reforms in order to deal with our crushing debt. One representative pointed out that a “Grace Commission” could be organized, referring to a federal study that came up with recommendations for dealing with the federal debt. Commissions with recommendations are a good start, but we need legislation to put these ideas into action.

But there is an order to be followed. No legislation can proceed without first changing the Illinois Constitution from a flat income tax rate to a progressive one. I was happy to see that this committee voted in favor of a resolution to move toward an amendment that would do just that. After that amendment is added, then the General Assembly can compromise on many items such as an exact rate structure, taxing pensions, exemptions for businesses who relocate in Illinois, Tax Increment Financing, etc. There is no governing without compromise. And compromises in Illinois financial matters must start with a fair taxing base. Most states have this. The federal government has had this since 1913. Isn’t it time we got on board?

Jan Goldberg, Riverside

A good old newspaper war

I rarely read editorials, hewing as I do to the old reporters’ description of editorial writers as coming out of the hills after the battle is over to shoot the wounded. But I’m finding the Sun-Times editorials surprisingly refreshing. 

The May 4 one taking the Tribune to task for fawning over Paul Vallas is a case in point (“Why the Tribune crush on Paul Vallas so early in the dance?“). It was thoughtful, informative, and most of all, temperate while engaging with a competitor both financial and ideological. Living in the northern Michigan backwoods, I have no dog in the Chicago mayoral race but do appreciate this kind of engaging, thoughtful journalism. Kudos.

Stuart Tarr, Empire, Michigan

A word about prejudice 

In a column by Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts (“U.S. House says ‘No Catholic Need Apply’ to be next chaplain” — May 3), the authors express their opposition to “religious intolerance and incivility.”

I share the authors’ interest in challenging those who perpetuate moldy old traditions that teach “us” to subordinate “them.” And so I was dismayed when I read their own dismissive assertion: “Liberals are equally inconsistent, embracing Catholic concerns for the needy but denouncing their pro-life and anti-gay positions.”

As one who cares more about how people treat each other than about anything else, I’m surprised that a famous political reporter and a similarly prominent political analyst fail to recognize the obvious consistency in liberals advocating for equality, respect, understanding, and coexistence when it comes to the private lives of their peers.

And, as for the cited pro-life and anti-gay positions, I wonder how those two would react if total strangers had aggressively protested their right to marry or to bear children.

With these thoughts in mind, I invite readers of this letter to reread Jonathan A. Greenblatt’s quote that Mr. and Mrs. Roberts considered important enough to include in their commentary: “‘Kids repeat what they hear. And so in an environment in which prejudice isn’t called out by public figures, figures of authority, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see young people repeat these same kind of tropes.’”

Gary M. Sanner, San Bernardino, California 

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