May 11, 2021

Guest column: We (Illinoisans) can’t afford more taxes

Tax Freedom Day is the day of the year when, as an average income earner, you stop working to pay taxes and finally start working for yourself. Illinois citizens’ Tax Freedom Day seems to be getting later and later as Governor Pritzker and Illinois lawmakers’ only solution to unsustainable debt is more taxes.

Hypothetically, if you put every dollar earned towards your annual tax burden starting on Jan. 1, you would be done paying on April 24 and the rest of the money earned would be the amount you take home. Think about that, almost 16 weeks!

April 24 is one of the latest Tax Freedom Days in the country. New York has the latest Tax Freedom Day, as taxpayers there are able to start working for themselves on May 3.

There is no question Illinois has some of the highest taxes in the nation. According to a recent report from WalletHub, the effective state and local tax in Illinois on the median U.S. household is 15.01% and is the highest in the nation. In terms of dollars, the median U.S. household in Illinois pays an average of $9,488 in state and local taxes per year. This doesn’t include any federal taxes. Illinois is also home to one of the nation’s highest property taxes, well over 100% higher than the average property tax in America.

Of course, it does not take studies and reports to tell us what those of us who live in Illinois already know to be true. Illinois residents know too well that the high taxes in Illinois and the state’s tax policies are the reason so many people have been leaving our state. Illinois has the second highest population loss in the nation since 2010.

Not only are Illinois residents voting with their feet, but they are also voting against higher taxes at the ballot box. The resounding defeat of Gov. JB Pritzker’s progressive income tax caught a lot of people by surprise. The Governor, after all, spent over $50 million to try to get the progressive income tax passed, but voters overwhelming rejected it.

Voters opposed the progressive income tax because they are tired of paying higher taxes than those in neighboring states. They are tired of sending more of their hard-earned money to Springfield only to have structural problems such as the state’s unfunded pension liability and the backlog of unpaid bills ignored.

Instead of addressing these structural problems, Pritzker has added spending. Each year he has been in office, his state budgets have set record spending levels.

We hear a lot about new ideas for raising taxes in Illinois. In the aftermath of the progressive income tax being rejected, the Governor is pushing nearly $1 billion in tax increases on Illinois businesses, but there is virtually no discussion on meaningful pension or spending reforms.

Voters understand that taxes are a part of life. They understand government services are necessary and they understand these services cost money. They know the only way to fund vital government services is through taxes.

Taxpayers willingly pay their taxes, but they do not want to see their tax dollars wasted and they do not want politicians to lie to them. Time and time again, politicians have told taxpayers that raising taxes is necessary to address problems such as unpaid bills, and time and time again taxes go up, but very little is done to address the problems that prompted the tax increase in the first place.

In short, taxpayers in Illinois have lost confidence in our state leaders. They did not believe the progressive income tax would only impact the rich. They have been sold a bill of goods too many times and they saw through the progressive income tax.

Illinois will continue to lose population and state government will continue to lose public trust as long as the Governor and his allies keep trying to raise taxes while ignoring the state’s structural problems.

We need leaders in Illinois willing to work to save the pension and the citizens of Illinois from over taxation. We need leaders who are ready to face the serious challenges in our state budgets. What we don’t need is more of the same. It is time to put Illinois’ financial house in order and that begins with ending the tax and spend policies that have brought our state to the brink of insolvency. It is time to focus on real reform.

Let’s elect leaders who can push back Tax Freedom Day. Wouldn’t it be nice to be working for ourselves much earlier in the year?

Gary Rabine, a Republican Bull Valley resident, is running for Illinois governor.