ROCK ISLAND -- Local unions, city officials and state representatives are throwing their weight behind a campaign to introduce a graduated income tax in Illinois.|
Illinois is one of nine states that have a flat income tax, which means that all taxpayers are taxed on their income at the same rate.
A graduated tax would mean those at the top of the income scale would pay income taxes at a higher rate than those at the bottom.
Representatives from a coalition called A Better Illinois spoke at Rock Island Public Library on Tuesday as part of their campaign to implement a graduated income tax in the state.
Kirsten Crowell, director of A Better Illinois, said doing so would help solve the chronic budget shortages that have seen cutbacks in funding for schools, police and infrastructure.
Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin have graduated income taxes, and states that include Indiana, Tennessee and Utah have a flat income tax. Seven states have no income tax.
The flat income tax rate in Illinois is 5 percent, although the rate is set to fall to 3.75 percent in 2015 because of a sunset clause included in legislation that raised the rate.
But introducing a graduated income tax in Illinois would require a change in the state's constitution.
Ms. Crowell said the difficulty in amending the constitution likely was why a graduated income tax has yet to be introduced in Illinois, even though the measure has broad appeal.
To change the state's constitution, an amendment would have to pass the Illinois House and Senate with three-fifths majorities.
The public then would have to approve the amendment at the next statewide election by either three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election.
"We're not saying punish the rich," Ms. Crowell said. "We're saying they should pay their fair share."
A Better Illinois is supported by 100 organizations statewide, including unions, small businesses and faith leaders, and has collected 125,000 signatures in favor of a vote on a graduated income tax.
One of the supporters of the campaign is Dino Leone, president of the Quad City Federation of Labor.
Mr. Leone said the state's financial problems have led to severe funding problems for basic state services such as prisons and protections for vulnerable children and seniors.
To solve the crisis, he said the wealthy should pay more in taxes and the poor less.
"That's a fair tax that the federation of labor can support," he said.
Also speaking in favor of a graduated tax at Tuesday's event was Silvis Mayor Tom Conrad.
A graduated income tax would help "stabilize" revenues to cities such as Silvis that have been hit by reductions and delays in state funding, he said.
State Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, is one of 36 sponsors of a bill in the Illinois House to amend the constitution to allow a graduated income tax. The Senate version of the bill has 24 sponsors.
There is opposition to a graduated income tax in Illinois among some Republicans, who are concerned that higher taxes on the rich could drive businesses out of the state.
"We're viewed as too anti-business now and we'd want to be extremely careful not to further that," said state Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson.
A Better Illinois has not endorsed any rate structure for a graduated income tax if one was to be implemented, Ms. Crowell said. The first step, she said, was getting the state constitution changed so debate on a rate structure could start.
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