Outmigration and Illinois' unfair tax system

The start of 2020 has brought us the beginning of a new decade and the start of an official election year. It's also brought a year in which the country will conduct its census, and there have already been efforts by those who have led the fight against the Fair Tax to mislead Illinoisans on the facts surrounding our state's troubling population loss.

A report from the U.S. Census Bureau released in the final days of 2019 detailed just how drastic this problem has been. This data shows that Illinois lost 159,700 residents over the past decade, nearly 1.2% of the population.

With a previous administration that left Illinois' education system decimated and social services underfunded, and with a fundamentally unfair tax system in place, it's no surprise so many Illinoisans chose to find another state to call home.

For too long, Illinois has had a tax system that fails our working families and our state as a whole. By forcing everyone to pay the same tax rate, regardless of income, lower and middle-class Illinoisans have been disproportionately burdened by their tax load. This has led to ever-worsening income inequality, and a system that stifles growth and opportunity.

We can start to address this by passing the Fair Tax in November. By creating a tax system where those who have a higher income pay a higher rate, we can level the playing field and give everyone the chance to succeed.

While you are certain to hear fearmongering and misleading claims from opponents of a Fair Tax about what impact this will have on our population, the fact is thousands of Illinoisans are already leaving because of the lack of resources and opportunity our tax system has created in this state.

The overwhelming majority of states with an income tax utilize a Fair Tax system, including many of Illinois' neighboring states that have all gained residents in recent years. And one of the most popular states for people leaving Illinois is California, a state that has a Fair Tax with a top rate of 13.3%, far higher than Illinois' proposed rates. Despite what the other side claims, it's clear that taxes are not the reason people are leaving Illinois.

With an education system made up of rundown schools, outdated textbooks, and large class sizes, it's no surprise that parents are choosing to raise their children elsewhere. And with an underfunded higher education system, it makes sense that so many Illinoisans are choosing to go out-of-state for college and then remaining there.

The Fair Tax would be crucial to solving this, generating billions of dollars of additional revenue to improve our state and ensure it offers the same opportunity other states do. This could lead to bringing young people into the state for college and keeping them here to start their careers, it could attract new businesses who are looking for locations their employees want to live, and it could help grow the existing businesses already here.

In the past year, Illinois has already taken great strides toward making it a place that people want to call home - passing a balanced budget for the first time in years, passing a historic infrastructure package to help rebuild our roads and bridges, and passing a minimum-wage increase to ensure all Illinoisans make a living wage, to name a few.

The Fair Tax is the next step we need to fundamentally change the trajectory of this state, and make Illinois the best place it can be for all its current and future residents.

Quentin Fulks is the Chairman of Vote Yes For Fairness, a ballot initiative committee working to pass the Fair Tax in Illinois

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