Editorial: Pritzker shouldn't use tax money to sell referendum
If a school district -- or any local government, for that matter -- overtly promoted a bond issue that required voter approval, it would be drawn and quartered.
That's against the law, and so when Barrington Unit District 220 recently held a referendum for one, school officials were careful to ensure that any publicity that was underwritten by the government was strictly informational, in tone as well as word.
Contrast that with the messaging you and we are financing through Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office. As one example: a "Fair Tax Calculator" on the Illinois government website that begins with the message, "Governor Pritzker is making good on his promise to protect working families and make our system more fair. With a fair tax, 97 percent of taxpayers will see some tax relief."
Sounds more than a little promotional, wouldn't you agree?
That's just one example of a progressive income tax campaign that taxpayers are funding even before the amendment makes it to the ballot.
The governor has been traveling around the state, presumably on official business -- in other words, at considerable taxpayer expense -- touting his proposed amendment.
Is he trying to persuade legislators, an accepted part of the political dynamic? To be sure. The referendum for the constitutional amendment cannot get on the 2020 ballot unless they put it there,
But a "Fair Tax Calculator" is not on his website in order to help convince legislators that they'll see cuts in their taxes. It's there to persuade the voters, who will have to vote "yes" on a referendum if this change in Illinois' tax structure is to take place.
Our question: Why is the governor allowed to use tax money to promote a referendum question when local governments aren't?
While we're at it, let's ask another question: Why does the government get to apply a blatant marketing label to the issue?
"Fair tax" is a description that's hardly detached. What's fair is open to debate and point of view. Proponents of a flat national sales tax also call their proposal a "fair tax" and it's, in effect, regressive.
So which is the fair tax? The progressive one or the regressive one?
There's only one reason for Pritzker to brand his proposal as a "fair tax:" to subliminally promote voter support. Who, after all, would want to consider themselves unfair?
Our point isn't to take a position on the proposal. There's much thoughtful and deliberate research to do before getting to that point.
But if the government is asking us, as voters, to consider this proposal, shouldn't the government be obligated to describing it in objective terms? Shouldn't the government call it what it is: a graduated income tax, a phrase with no loaded connotation, good or bad?