Spending Heats Up In Ad War Over Progressive Income Tax

ILLINOIS — Before voters cast ballots in November on whether Illinois should move from a flat income tax to a progressive income tax, they’ll face a barrage of advertising.

The proposed amendment would replace the state’s current tax structure for a new plan allowing lawmakers to tax different levels of income at different rates. The tax proposal was initially raised in 2014, but was not passed by the Illinois legislature.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker donated more than $50 million of his own money to a committee supporting the constitutional amendment. Advertisements from AARP and from the group “Vote Yes for Fairness” supporting the change have been a mainstay on TV for weeks.

One ad claims 97 percent of state residents will pay the same or less in taxes, while people making above $250,000 will pay more. The amendment doesn’t include tax rates or income brackets, but lawmakers have approved preliminary rates and brackets that could change over time.

Another ad says a “yes” vote will raise taxes on the top 3% of wage earners, generating almost $3 billion a year.

Mark Grant, director of the Illinois Small Business Association, said the governor can throw all the money at the ad blitz he wants, but it is still a tough sell.

“It happens a lot in the marketplace where bad ideas come about and companies or individuals spend a lot of money trying to get people to purchase something but they don’t like it and it’s the same thing with this,” said Grant.

Bryce Hill, senior research analyst with the Illinois Policy Institute, said the money thrown into the campaigns might not convince voters.

“I think that Illinoisans have been here before,” he said. “We’ve heard these same promises that all Springfield needs is a little bit more money so we can fix the state’s finances. I feel pretty confident that the voters see that this has nothing to do with fairness.”

The Illinois Secretary of State has already started mailing informational leaflets to Illinois households explaining the amendment to the constitution, with arguments for and against its passage.

The Center Square – Kevin Bessler

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