Members of the Illinois General Assembly will have a chance to vote for a proactive long-term solution to the Illinois budget crisis when they go back to Springfield next week. The constitutional amendment for a Fair Tax and an accompanying income tax rate bill recently passed out of the House Executive Committee. We expect these bills to be called for a vote on the House floor when session resumes on May 3.
The resolution, HJRCA 59, would allow voters to decide on the November ballot if Illinois should have a graduated income tax with lower rates for lower incomes and higher rates for higher incomes. The accompanying rate bill, HB 689, provides a tax structure that could go into effect if the constitutional amendment is approved by voters in November. The rates in HB 689 would raise $1.9 billion in new revenue while providing a tax cut for 99.3% of Illinois taxpayers.
On Friday April 22, lawmakers passed legislation to provide stop gap funding for public universities on the verge of closing because of the Illinois budget impasse. This is good news, but it doesn’t change our current reality. Illinois still has a structural deficit that will not be solved unless we find additional revenue. This stop gap funding only prolongs the inevitable--universities and social service agencies that protect the most vulnerable will continue to close their doors unless legislators find new sources of revenue.
As people of faith, we are called to change unjust systems to ensure that everyone in our community has enough. The prophet Isaiah says, "Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow" (1:17). Scripture tells us not only to give out of our abundance so that others may have enough, but to build a more just community. We need a Fair Tax to justly fund education, human services, and health care for all of our neighbors.
HJRCA 59 and HB 689 are an important and necessary first step to fairly raise the revenue Illinois desperately needs. Of the 41 states with an income tax, 34 states have graduated rates. It is time for Illinois to join them. We need a fair and just tax system now.
The deadline for the Fair Tax amendment to pass the General Assembly is soon—May 7! Tell your representative to support the Fair Tax now.