The “Fair Tax” is on the Illinois ballot this November. If approved, it would transition the state away from a regressive, flat state income tax and towards a fair and progressive state income tax.
Opponents and proponents are already bombarding our screens with messages to vote for or against the Fair Tax. In the middle of all of that noise, it can be hard to know where to stand on a contentious statewide issue, especially during a global pandemic, threats to our democracy at the federal level, and the worsening impacts of the climate crisis.
The NRDC Action Fund is endorsing the Fair Tax for a simple reason. If we want to fix the environmental challenges facing Illinois residents, from the pollution in our air, to the lead in our water, to the climate crisis we are seeing and feeling in Illinois and across the country, we need resources to address these challenges. Those resources should not have to come from middle- and working-class Illinois families who can least afford to shoulder the burden.
What the big business interests who are funding the campaign against the Fair Tax won’t tell you: Illinois is one of only four states in the country with a constitutionally mandated flat tax. They won’t tell you that our tax structure is an aberration, and an obstacle to progress. They certainly won’t tell you that under the current rules, the CEO of a hedge fund pays the same state income tax rate as the janitor who cleans his office at night. There is nothing fair about that. It means inequity is literally written into our state’s constitution.
Enacting a Fair Tax won’t solve all of Illinois’ challenges. But it will ensure that the burden of solving our financial challenges does not fall on the backs of those who can least afford it. If the Fair Tax is passed 97% of Illinoisans would see their state income taxes stay the same or go down. Given the scale and scope of the financial challenges facing our state, if this measure is not passed, it’s likely taxes will go up for all of us.
This November, Illinois residents have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address a historic structural inequity. While we strike a blow for fairness, we will also better fund our public schools, our infrastructure, and the environmental protections and safeguards we need to protect our health and quality of life for generations to come.