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Illinois Senate adopts language for “Fair Tax” ballot question, voter pamphlet

SPRINGFIELD (WREX) — Senators voted 36-19 to adopt language for the graduated income tax question appearing on ballots this fall. The joint resolution also provides arguments for and against Gov. JB Pritzker's "Fair Tax" that will be published in a pamphlet for voters. Every Illinois household will receive the informational packet in the mail.

The pamphlet will explain the proposed constitutional amendment along with statements supporting the change prepared by Democrats and arguments against the proposal drafted by Republicans.

Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) says many Illinoisans have lost their trust in state government due to constant tax increases. "They do not believe the General Assembly has earned the trust that is necessary to raise taxes, because the General Assembly has not done the tough job of reforming the manner in which our government spends our dollars," Barickman said late Thursday night.

Barickman says most residents see this as an opportunity for lawmakers to have a blank check to continue spending.

"We see countless reports of Illinoisans who are fleeing Illinois because they believe they live in a state that has taxed them to the brink," Barickman added. He says many people move to states with thriving economies and lower taxes.

Republicans also belief the Legislature should not be allowed to keep raising taxes until state spending is under control. Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorne Woods) takes issue with the language selected for the question. "The proposed amendment gives the state the ability to impose higher tax rates on those with higher income levels and lower tax rates on those with middle and lower income levels. The truth of the matter is the amendment itself actually isn't actually that limited."

Impact on small businesses

He asked the proposal's sponsor, Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Forest) how small businesses would be impacted.

"I believe the proponents will agree with me a Fair Tax will provide stability in our tax policy," Harmon said. "The vast majority of small business owners will see a tax reduction."

If voters approve the amendment, Illinois will enact a new tax structure where only people making over $250,000 per year would see a tax increase. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Republicans argue now is the worst possible time for a massive tax increase.

"The citizens of Illinois are in a crisis economy, they're in a COVID-19 economy. They don't know how they're gonna pay their mortgage, they don't know if they're going to meet their rent payment," said Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady.

He explains many business owners don't know if they will be able to keep their doors open.

A COVID-19 economy

The Bloomington Republican says the "Fair Tax" passed out of both chambers last year, with a much different economy. He says lawmakers should work together to rebuild the economy on "sound business principles" that could give confidence to Illinoisans. He asked Democrats to remove the question from the November ballot and welcomed the proposal at a later date. However, President Harmon moved forward.

Harmon stresses there is no plan to raise taxes on middle class families.

"The people who have been kicked in the teeth by this pandemic are the same people who will benefit the most from the fair tax."

The resolution now awaits a vote in the House.

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Mike Miletich

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