When Illinoisans hit the polls in November, they will see a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot asking whether the state should put transportation funding in a "lockbox" so that it cannot be used for non-related spending.
If the amendment passes, the Illinois Constitution would be amended to ensure transportation funding is safeguarded from being spent on other purposes, like balancing the state budget.
Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding, a coalition of business, labor and construction groups, is leading the advocacy effort in support of the so-called "Safe Roads Amendment," which made it onto the November 8 ballot after strong bipartisan approval from the state legislature.
Low-income Illinoisans have the third-highest state and local tax burden in the nation, according to a new study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children.
The study, which examined the distribution of all major state and local taxes by income group in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, showed that the poorest Illinois residents currently pay almost three times more in taxes as a percent of their income compared to the richest Illinoisans.
Illinois' effective tax rates by income group are 13.2 percent for those in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale, 10.8 percent for the middle 20 percent and 4.6 percent for the top 1 percent, according to the study.
Chicago mayoral candidate and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia stressed his support for a graduated state income tax at a Thursday morning University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) panel discussion on race and inequality.
Garcia said property taxes, which are a major source of revenue for public education in the city and state, are "very regressive in terms of how they affect the general population" and are "not the best source to fund schools."
"A fairer system of taxation would be a graduated state income tax, or something that is more progressive tied to an income tax," Garcia said in a follow-up with reporters after the talk, which was sponsored by UIC's Great Cities Institute. "I think that is a much more sustainable funding source for schools, for human services and things of that nature. I think it's one that we really need to look at. States that have that type of progressive taxation tend to have better-funded school systems and less disparities in education."
The Illinois Senate has adjourned for the day, leaving the Fair Tax Act untouched. Meanwhile, the GOP-backed amendment to impose term limits on state lawmakers died in the chamber Tuesday.
Despite a large rally by Illinoisans calling for a chance to vote on the Fair Tax Act and attempts by sponsor State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) to drum up support in the House, the amendment was not called up for a vote in the Senate. The amendment, which would have installed a progressive income tax in the state, had to pass through the Senate today in order to even potentially meet the deadline to make it onto the November ballot.