Frerichs decries anti-tax ‘mudslinging, dirty tricks’

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Treasurer insists unequivocally, ‘There is no plan to tax retirement income’

State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, seen at a 2018 get-out-the-vote rally, takes issue with the anti-tax “misinformation campaign” that has worked to “sully my name in the process.” (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, seen at a 2018 get-out-the-vote rally, takes issue with the anti-tax “misinformation campaign” that has worked to “sully my name in the process.” (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Treasurer Michael Frerichs has, of course, won statewide elections, so he’s no neophyte in the political arena. When he was elected to the state Senate in 2006, representing a district spanning Champaign and Vermillion counties, he was the first Democrat to represent east-central Illinois in that body since the Great Depression. Four years later, he won reelection with over 60 percent of the vote, and two years after that he was unopposed.

Elected state treasurer in 2014 with a plurality, he won reelection two years ago, again approaching 60 percent of the vote.

He said Thursday that he resigned himself in August and September to “the misinformation, the mudslinging, and the dirty tricks” being deployed politically against the Fair Tax Amendment. “I’ve been through campaigns, after all,” he said, “and while I don’t like that aspect of campaigning, I’m also aware that politics ain’t bean bag.”

Yet he quickly added, “When my words have been twisted and taken out of context and used to frighten seniors, that is disturbing to me.”

Remarks Frerichs made in June in speaking to the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce have been “twisted and taken out of context” to suggest that adoption of a graduated income tax could ultimately lead to a tax on retirement income. They’ve been used in TV attack ads against the Fair Tax Amendment to sew fear among senior citizens.

“I want to be extremely clear,” Frerichs said Thursday in a phone interview. “I did not call for a tax on retirement income. There is no plan to tax retirement income. I will not support a tax on retirement income.”

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“I want to be extremely clear. I did not call for a tax on retirement income. There is no plan to tax retirement income. I will not support a tax on retirement income.”

Treasurer Michael Frerichs (BlueRoomStream)

He lashed out at groups like the Illinois Policy Institute, as well as the billionaire-backed Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment, saying, “Some of the same people and organizations that are supporting this disinformation campaign are the same people who have tried for years to reduce retirement income for people,” for instance with persistent attacks on public pensions. “It really seems to be the height of hypocrisy,” Frerichs added, suggesting they were hiding their true reasons for fighting the Fair Tax behind disingenuous arguments intended to muddy the waters and get people to vote against their own self-interest.

“If the other side were upfront and honest about the their reasons for opposing the Fair Tax, they would clearly fail,” he said. “If they were to say we want those who have more than $1 million in income in a year to pay no more for the (state) services that they receive, their side would fail. Instead, they resort to disinformation, manipulation, mudslinging in order to frighten some of the people who would benefit from the Fair Tax, frighten them away from voting for it.

“I think that the governor has been clear and the General Assembly has been clear, but I think the opponents — the millionaires who are going to be paying more — have been funding a disinformation campaign.”

Part of that’s almost inevitable in the current political environment. “On the national level, I understand that our political discourse has become more hostile,” Frerichs said. “Our decisions on who we support for president have never been so hardened. And our distrust of opposing candidates and what they say has never been more resolute. But this ugliness has seeped into our state campaigns, and in particular the Fair Tax question.”

To Frerichs, as state treasurer, the issue seems clear cut. Speaking of his own self-interest, he said, “I think it would have a positive impact on the state, and that is a good thing for the Treasurer’s Office. I think it is the right thing to do.

“The public expects certain services, and we need to have a balanced budget,” he added. “The question is, what is the fairest way to raise that revenue?”

Pointing out that the federal government has had a graduated income tax for more than a century, a system also adopted by an overwhelming majority of states, he answered his own question, saying, “Those who have been phenomenally successful in our economy ought to pay a little more than those who are struggling.

“If the IPI wants to argue that billionaires should pay the same tax rate as a schoolteacher, a nurse, or a police officer, then fine, let them make that argument,” he added. “But it should not be allowed to use this misinformation campaign and to sully my name in the process.

“Once again, there is no plan to tax retirement income. Any comment to the contrary simply is false.”

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October 15, 2020 at 12:22PM

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