It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure our children’s future
Why is Ken Griffin, one of the richest people in Illinois, joining his wealthy friends to spend millions to defeat the Fair Tax Amendment on the November ballot?
“That’s easy,” said CTU Legislative and Policy Director Kurt Hilgendorf. “They have a sweet deal and they want to keep it.”
That “deal”—Illinois’ unfair, flat rate tax—allows Griffin and other wealthy Illinoisans to pay the same income tax rate as school cafeteria workers, bus drivers or grocery store clerks.
But that deal’s time is coming to an end. Illinois voters have a chance on the November ballot to scrap the flat tax and adopt a progressive income tax, known as the Fair Tax.
Illinois is one of just a handful of states with a flat income tax rate. Under this fundamentally unfair system, the top 1 percent of Illinoisans pay just 7 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while middle and low-income workers pay nearly double, 13 percent.
That regressive tax system is responsible for the chronic underfunding of our schools and other public services.
The Illinois Constitution—the same constitution that mandates the flat tax—directs the state to provide the majority of funding for public schools. But, in reality, the bulk of funding—54 percent—comes from local property taxes, giving Illinois the eighth most regressive tax system in the nation.
The reliance on property taxes also means that the poorest districts, including CPS, with the greatest needs, have the least resources available.
If approved in November, the Fair Tax Amendment would change all that by rewriting the disastrous clause in the state constitution that requires the flat rate. The new Fair Tax, also known as a progressive income tax, would apply only to those making more than $250,000 a year—or just 3 percent of Illinois’ population. Everyone else would see no change in their state income taxes or receive a tax cut.
In 2017, after a decade-long fight, the state adopted a new evidence-based education funding formula designed to allocate state education dollars to school districts based on what they actually need to serve students. But public schools are still underfunded. The Fair Tax is expected to raise an extra $3 billion to begin plugging the budget hole.
“Will the Fair Tax solve all our problems overnight?” Cook County Commissioner and CTU Organizer Brandon Johnson said. “Of course not. But it will begin to address the stark inequalities that our public schools face.”
Johnson joined CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, Sen. Rob Martwick and Hilgendorf for a virtual Fair Tax Forum in September to present the facts about the amendment and challenge the lies being advanced by a well-funded, massive right-wing misinformation campaign.
One of the biggest falsehoods being spread about the Fair Tax is that it will tax retirement income. This is FALSE, period. Both the Illinois AARP and the Illinois Alliance of Retired Americans support the Fair Tax amendment.
Martwick, the chief sponsor of the amendment, advised CTU members to be vigilant and not take its passage for granted. It needs to garner 60 percent of those voting on it to pass.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to level the playing field,” he said. “This is about bringing more resources to our classrooms, but let’s be clear. The choice isn’t between getting more resources or staying the same. Without the Fair Tax, we’ll be going backward for years to come, and I can’t even imagine that.”
Hilgendorf urged CTU members to get involved in the Union’s Fair Tax campaign by helping to phone bank, share messages on social media and post yard signs.
“Everything we’re experiencing in this moment is connected to a tax system that is unfair and places all the burden on working class families,” Davis Gates said. “This is about securing the future of our state for our children.”