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Civic Federation opposes Pritzker’s income tax plan: ‘Nothing in the package protects any one group of taxpayers’

“While the Civic Federation is not opposed to the concept of a graduated income tax and understands the state’s need for more revenue, the rate structure enacted by the General Assembly is anything but ideal,” a statement from the group reads.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, left, last month; Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federations, right, in 2019.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, left, last month; Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federations, right, in 2019.
Anthony Vazquez, Rich Hein/Sun-Times file.

The Civic Federation on Tuesday joined the opposition to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s push for a graduated income tax, arguing the rates passed by the lawmakers last year as part of the governor’s proposal are “anything but ideal.”

“While the Civic Federation is not opposed to the concept of a graduated income tax and understands the state’s need for more revenue, the rate structure enacted by the General Assembly is anything but ideal,” a statement from the group reads. “Low income Illinoisans will continue to bear roughly the same tax rate as their middle and upper-middle class counterparts.”

The non-partisan government research group contended that “nothing in the package protects any one group of taxpayers from being overburdened now or in the future.

“A better rate structure would further reduce rates for the lowest income bracket(s), maintain only marginal rates and restrict the highest and lowest rates to within a certain percentage spread,” the statement continued. “The General Assembly’s structure meets none of these standards.”

Under current law, all personal income is taxed at 4.95% and corporate income at 7%.

Under Pritzker’s proposal, incomes between $250,000 and $500,000 would be taxed 7.75%. It would maintain the current tax rate of 4.95% on incomes between $100,000 and $250,000. Income from $500,000 to $1 million would be taxed 7.85%, while income over $1 million would be taxed 7.99%. For those earning incomes of $10,000 to $100,000, the rate would dip down to 4.9%, and to 4.75% for the first $10,000.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs revenue and budget bills in 2019
Flanked by supporters, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs legislation related to his graduated income tax proposal at the James R. Thompson Center on June 5, 2019.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Voters are not deciding on the rates when they cast their ballot in November. The rates were passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Pritzker last June.

Should voters approve the constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot, the new tax rates would go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Quentin Fulks, the chair of the group pushing for passage of the proposed amendment, said the Civic Federation’s position isn’t surprising “considering they’re the select few our current tax system benefits.”

“Members of the Civic Federation would rather keep the burden on our middle and lower-income families and implement a retirement tax on our seniors instead of finally paying their fair share,” Fulks’ statement on behalf of the Vote Yes for Fairness committee reads.

Quentin Fulks, center, of Vote Yes For Fairness, discusses the proposed graduated income tax on WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight.”
Quentin Fulks, center, of Vote Yes For Fairness, discusses the proposed graduated income tax on WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight,” with host Phil Ponce, left, and Jason Heffley, right, executive director of Ideas Illinois, a group opposed to the proposal, last year.
Screen image.

But opponents of the proposal welcomed their new allies.

Lissa Druss, the spokeswoman for the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment, said the federation’s opposition to the tax shows that more people are “joining our bi-partisan coalition of middle-class families, retirees, small business owners, and family farmers because after two tax hikes over the last ten years and an $8 billion deficit, now is the worst time to trust Springfield politicians with another tax increase.”

The Civic Federation is the latest to take a position against the proposed change to the state’s tax structure from a flat tax rate to a graduated rate.

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, a group of executives from the state’s leading employers, said last month it opposes the proposal and pointed to the state’s “decades-long history of fiscal mismanagement.”

Both the Civic Federation and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club have previously expressed support for taxing retirement income.

The debate over Pritzker’s top priority in the November election kicked into high gear over the last few weeks. The Democratic governor has taken the “carrot and stick” approach, warning residents to pass the tax so as to avoid potentially steep budget cuts or a 20% income tax increase for all taxpayers.