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A graduated income tax makes sense, but Illinois has failed taxpayers for years

Gov. J.B. Pritzker outlines his plan to replace Illinois' flat-rate income tax with a graduated structure. | File Photo. (AP Photo/John O'Connor)

You wake up in the morning and there’s a TV commercial from Think Big Illinois telling you how much better life is going to be once there’s a fair tax system in place.

You go to sleep as another commercial reminds you that 97% of Illinois residents will not see any tax increase if the graduated income tax legislation gets passed and only the wealthiest will pay more.

OPINION

Taxes. Who wants to think about them? Not you. Not me. Not the dozens of newspaper reporters who cover government and the editorial writers who actually get paid to think about such stuff.

Gov. J. B. Pritzker, a billionaire, wants Illinois to eliminate the state’s flat income tax, which is allowed by the Illinois constitution. He wants to replace it with a graduated income tax, the sort of thing the federal government uses, which will require a constitutional amendment.

This is a fairer system, everyone says. But, of course, all of us know there is nothing fair about the federal income tax system. Heck, our president, Donald Trump, is afraid to disclose his income taxes because, well, he might be embarrassed or expose himself to criminal prosecution.

Rich folks like Trump often don’t pay federal income taxes. They claim legal exemptions. They claim illegal exemptions. Heck, they run the government.

Pritzker himself is under attack for cheating on his property taxes by ripping toilets out of a house that he owned so he could claim the property was worth less.

Forget all of that small stuff. Think Big Illinois.

Everyone who knows anything about government will tell you we need a graduated income tax system.

Not only would it be fairer than a flat tax, it would generate more money by taxing the rich.

Illinois needs money because our government for decades did not use the tax money it received to make payments into pension systems. The debt is now so large that it will never be paid in our lifetimes.

In addition, the state doesn’t have enough money to pay its annual bills. It has had to borrow to do that and now has to pay interest on the money it borrowed.

The fact is, our elected leaders are incapable of managing the state budget. They couldn’t even pass a state budget for two years.

So, we need more money. We really do. Lots of money.

We need to legalize recreational marijuana because that will bring in millions of dollars in new revenue.

We need to legalize sports betting because that will bring in millions of dollars more.

But even if all of that is done, we won’t have enough money. It’s just a stopgap to keep the state running temporarily.

That’s why we need a graduated income tax.

That’s in addition to the state lottery, the video gambling in your neighborhood restaurant and property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation.

State lawmakers are talking about a property tax freeze, tied to passage of the graduated income tax.

Property taxes are high because the state legislation failed to do its part to fund the schools. That’s right, the state failed to adequately fund education, as mandated in the Illinois constitution, even as it was failing to fund the pension systems.

At the same time, mental health care funding was cut and mental hospitals were closed to save money.

Home health care programs for the disabled were cut.

I believe in government. I believe we need more money to run the state and fund the schools.

But all those commercials about taxes really annoy me.

Someone needs to explain how and why the state failed taxpayers so badly for so many years.

Forget about that stuff, people seem to say. It’s history. Your brain is just not big enough to comprehend the complexities of government.

Think Big Illinois makes me feel little and stupid. But that’s how elected officials have always treated taxpayers.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

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