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Creating a New Monster: Illinois’ “Fair Tax” Plan Could – and Should – Have Been an Easier Sell
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Illinois Politics

2014-04-30 15:32:22

(Listen to author Jeff Ignatius discuss the Fair Tax on “Midwest Week” with WVIK’s Herb Trix.)

Illustration by Leo Kelly

How would you like a cut in your income taxes while protecting funding for education and public safety?

Or how would you like the Illinois General Assembly to stick it to you by making permanent the income-tax increase of 2011 that is supposed to (mostly) expire next year?

Lucky you: In a bizarre set of circumstances, a “Fair Tax” proposal would give you both! Ninety-four percent of Illinois taxpayers would see their income taxes drop in 2015, while lawmakers wouldn’t have to make the tough budgetary choices they promised to. Win-win!

Sound confusing? It is. Sound impossible? It isn’t.

Bear with me, and I’ll explain how the legislature – specifically Democrats faced with two highly unattractive options in an election year – devised a “third way” that’s not really a third way at all. It’s merely a variation on one of those highly unattractive options, but it’s been cleverly packaged on the assumption that voters have short memories.

This gambit is technically still in play, but on Tuesday it looked nearly certain that it lacked the legislative votes to move forward to a November referendum. If it has indeed died for 2014, let this be a cautionary tale about the perils of broken pledges – and attempts at marketing them as something positive.

And if the plan finds new life in the next few days, it’s essential that lawmakers and voters understand what it really is.


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