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ATRM Report – American Tax Reduction Movement

The race for governor of Illinois was rocked by a battle over tax hikes, as four candidates offered their ideas for addressing the state’s dire financial condition.

If raising taxes solved the problems of state government, Illinois would be a paradise.

Homeowners in Chicago saw their property tax bills go up last summer by an average of $110, or 2.75 percent, following the previous year’s average tax increase of 10 percent.

Outside the city, property owners in some suburbs were hit with tax hikes that averaged $247 for the average homeowner, an increase of almost 5 percent.

Part of the problem is that in 2015 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through a four-year property tax increase to pay for the city’s pension obligations. It didn’t help that a 2017 investigation found Cook County’s assessment process to be massively unfair to lower-income homeowners while benefiting property owners in upscale neighborhoods.

Taxes in Illinois are such a mess that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts recently cited the state’s sales tax on candy as an example of ridiculously complicated rules.

For example, Snickers bars are taxed at the regular sales tax rate of 6.25 percent, but the sales tax on Twix bars is only one percent.

That’s because candy that contains flour as an ingredient and doesn’t have to be refrigerated gets a tax break. The Illinois Department of Revenue has two pages of regulations explaining the definition of candy.

In 2017, Illinois lawmakers passed the largest permanent income tax in state history, but even with the $5 billion tax hike, the next state budget had a $1.5 billion deficit.

The problem, of course, is spending. In the past ten years, state spending and debt have run far ahead of revenues.

What did the candidates for governor propose?

Democrat J. B. Pritzker, a challenger to incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, proposed a graduated income tax but refused to say how high it would be or at what income level it would hit taxpayers. Rauner called that a massive tax increase and vowed to oppose it. He has proposed an income tax cut tied to pension reform.

Conservative Party candidate Sam McCann called for “zero-based budgeting” to force state departments to justify their entire budget every year, and said he supports rolling back the 2017 income tax increase.

Libertarian Kash Jackson said he would prefer a flat tax to a graduated income tax. He proposed a freeze on local property taxes for five years and new legislation to require local tax hikes to be approved by two-thirds of voters.

And what did the voters think?

On November 6, Pritzker defeated Rauner by a margin of 54%–39%. McCann was third with 4% and Jackson had 2%.