How will tax change affect you? Pritzker unveils Fair Tax Calculator

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With transparency essential in tax debate, online tool gives taxpayers answers

Gov. Pritzker explains his Fair Tax Calculator at the Thompson Center in Chicago on Tuesday. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Gov. Pritzker explains his Fair Tax Calculator at the Thompson Center in Chicago on Tuesday. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

CHICAGO — How will the “fair tax” proposed by Gov. Pritzker affect you? There’s an app for that.

Well, if not an app, then a new online tool unveiled Tuesday by the governor at a news conference at the Thompson Center in Chicago. The Fair Tax Calculator allows Illinois taxpayers to see exactly how much extra they’d pay — or get back, as is said to be the case for the vast majority of Illinoisans — under the graduated income tax Pritzker put forth last week.

“As we negotiate this proposal with the General Assembly and ultimately ask the people of Illinois to decide, my administration is committed to being fully transparent and giving residents the tools they need to understand this proposal,” Pritzker said. “To that end, I’m proud to introduce the Fair Tax Calculator. This calculator will allow every taxpayer in Illinois to calculate exactly what the fair tax will mean for them and their family.”

According to the Governor’s Office: “Users can input their income, filing status, exemptions, dependents, property tax paid, and K-12 expenses to calculate how the fair tax compares to the current flat income tax.”

“The people of Illinois, the working families of Illinois, wanted to be treated fairly,” Pritzker said. “As I said throughout my campaign, Illinois’s flat-tax system is regressive and unfair to the middle class and to those who are striving to get there. People like me should pay more and people like you should pay less. Simple.”

Repeating many of themes he’d sounded last week, Pritzker emphasized his plan includes an expanded property-tax credit and child tax credit, which are factored into the Fair Tax Calculator.

“The fair tax provides a start to much-needed property-tax relief,” Pritzker said. Pointing out it’s projected to raise $3.4 billion to address a $3.2 billion budget deficit, he added, “It will put Illinois on firmer fiscal footing.”

He said the expanded revenue was precisely intended to ease the qualms of credit-ratings agencies. “Investors seem pleased to see that we are getting our fiscal house in order and that we’re heading in the right direction,” Pritzker said, adding, “I’m succeeding a governor who said credit ratings don’t matter and who proved it with his actions that he didn’t care. The fact is that I do care that we do want to make sure that we’re balancing our budget, that we’re paying our obligations.”

“We finally have a proposal that is fair,” said William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action/Illinois.

“We are at ease,” said Carole Pollitz, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134. “We feel we have a level playing field now.”

Pritzker said the only alternatives to his tax plan — which is projected to cut taxes for 97 percent of Illinoisans — are to cut spending on education, law enforcement, and social services 15 percent across the board, or raise the existing “regressive” flat tax rate 20 percent on all state residents. As he did last week, Pritzker called out opponents, saying, “While they may not agree with my approach, they should do so in good faith and with a specific counterproposal, not pie in the sky.

“How are the opponents of this going to address the problem?” Pritzer added. “Folding your arms and saying, ‘Let’s not do anything,’ that’s the wrong answer.”

In that light, the Fair Tax Calculator is a tool to undercut disinformation about the progressive income tax that is already flooding conservative media outlets like the Illinois Policy Institute, which in one case is suggesting Pritzker’s tax plan doesn’t raise taxes enough to cover the programs the IPI doesn’t even want to see funded in the first place.

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“We must stop feeding off people’s cynicism about government’s ability to serve people. A little cynicism, that’s healthy, but too much cynicism will kill the spirit.”

William McNary of Citizen Action/Illinois

McNary echoed those warnings, saying, “We must stop feeding off people’s cynicism about government’s ability to serve people. A little cynicism, that’s healthy, but too much cynicism will kill the spirit. If conservatives hate government in theory, and progressives hate government in practice, we’re never going to get the revenue we need.”

Returning to the billionaire Pritzker, McNary said, “We should not judge a man by the size of his wallet, but by the size of their hearts and their commitment to our values. … I’m so proud to stand with a man who puts his wallet where his values are.”

Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, likewise praised Pritzker’s willingness to raise taxes on the upper brackets where he himself would rank as a taxpayer. He criticized those in the top brackets who’d resist the tax change, saying, “Their priorities are to take care of themselves.”

Pritzker rejected expanding sales taxes to services, saying that was just another form of “regressive” taxation.

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March 12, 2019 at 02:27PM

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