#TaxesMakeHealthHappen: Maintaining Illinois’ population? Let’s talk about fair taxes! - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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#TaxesMakeHealthHappen: Maintaining Illinois’ population? Let’s talk about fair taxes!

April 17, 2018

In honor of tax day, Senior Policy Analyst Tiffany N. Ford and Director of Health Equity Wesley Epplin wrote the following response to recent Chicago Tribune editorials looking at Illinois’ tax system in the run up to the gubernatorial election. 

Recent editorials on the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates ask the question we are all wondering: “who’s got the best plan to rescue and revive Illinois?” Illinois faces a long-term fiscal crisis, so examining our tax structure is essential to helping the state and making Illinois an attractive place to live. Political candidates grappling with why the state is losing population can find their answer in Illinois’ inequitable tax system.

There is a broad misunderstanding about the importance and value of taxes in supporting a fair and equitable society. Taxes advance an equitable society by ensuring availability of goods and resources that people need and deserve for a high quality of life. Taxes support budget priorities such as education, workforce development, road and bridge maintenance, and healthcare. Illinoisans have common interest in an equitable tax system that provides these. Yet, Illinois’ current flat income tax does not provide sufficient revenue, contributing to localities passing higher taxes that are unaffordable for many.

While one Tribune editorials says, “taxes already are high…” the numbers show a more complex picture. Insufficient state income taxes lead to high taxes at the local level. Local governments must make up for inadequate state support for essential services, such as education, so people experience high sales and property taxes—Illinois’ 2017 property taxes were second highest nationally.

In 2015, Illinois’ state and local tax system ranked fifth most unfair, meaning poor and middle class residents pay a higher percentage of their income to state and local taxes than the wealthiest Illinoisans pay. Despite common myth, a graduated income tax would be fairer because it moves toward people paying their fair share into the tax system that benefits us all. A graduated tax, which 33 other states have, is more equitable in that higher earners pay a fairer share while raising revenue needed for services that benefit all Illinoisans.

Regardless of income, political party, or location in the state, taxes matter for the quality and equity of services that matter for Illinoisans’ high quality of life. Fair tax policy will get us there. No matter the outcome of the November election, Illinois needs a graduated income tax.