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posted: 1/5/2014 5:00 AM

Editorial: The move toward a graduated income tax in Illinois

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

As we head into a new year, we can expect some momentum to build for a shift in Illinois to a graduated income tax.

The idea behind this concept always has been that the more money you make, the more you can afford to pay.

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And certainly, we understand that if you're making $40,000 a year, a 5 percent tax theoretically leaves you with $38,000, while if you're making $200,000, the $190,000 that's left after a 5 percent reduction still goes much further in covering basic needs.

We understand that. We are not in principle opposed to the graduated tax concept.

But we are opposed to a blatant money grab, and that's what this is.

In the current campaign, the relationship of the graduated tax concept to tax fairness is about the same as the relationship of red-light cameras to traffic safety. In both cases, it's really about the money.

Our state government has a major spending problem. It caves to influence peddlers and vested interests and fails to operate efficiently or to make tough choices.

That isn't addressed in this movement by free-spending Democrats that include suburbanites such as Keith Farnham and Linda Chapa LaVia in the state House and Melinda Bush and Michael Noland in the state Senate.

It simply represents an effort to find more money to spend.

Remember the temporary income tax increase that was imposed in a lame-duck legislative session a few years ago? It was supposed to be only temporary to get Illinois out of its immediate spending jam, remember?

It's set to partially expire at the end of the year unless the legislature votes to extend it.

Guess what? We have another legislative election this November. After that election, there will be another lame-duck session and no one will be facing the electorate again for more than a year.

And guess what's going to happen in that lame-duck session next winter unless the electorate is attentive enough to put its foot down this year? This graduated income tax proposal is apt to come up then. It would have to be adopted as an amendment to the state Constitution to become law.

That would make it tougher to happen, but not impossible.

Meanwhile, if the General Assembly is going to take on this constitutional restriction, let it also take on constitutional restrictions on the flexibility the state has over pension reform and unfunded mandates.

If we're going to reform the way we raise revenue in Illinois, it can't be done in isolation. It would need to be done as part of a package that also reforms the way we spend money.

We're not in principle opposed to the graduated tax concept. But we're very much opposed to a money grab by the power brokers and vested interests in Springfield.

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