BACKGROUND

Currently, the Illinois constitution mandates a flat tax system, in which everyone pays the state the same percentage of their income (the current rate is 4.95 percent). On June 5, 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed SB0687, a bill that allows for amending the constitution to implement a graduated (progressive) tax system, in which residents would pay different percentages based on their income. Pritzker signed additional legislation that set forth a schedule of income-based tax brackets (see graphic below). Under this proposal, only those with yearly incomes of more than $250,000 would pay a higher tax rate.

Since all Illinois constitutional amendments must be approved by more than 60 percent of voters, it’s up to us to decide the fate of the Fair Tax amendment next Election Day, November 3, 2020.

WHY JCUA IS INVOLVED

The State of Illinois is critically underfunded, with insufficient revenue generated to pay for necessary social services. The problem has only grown worse in recent years, as agencies and critical service providers have shut down across the state. As the system works now, Illinois is balancing its books on the backs of those least able to pay.

JCUA has been a strong supporter of a graduated income tax for decades. In recent years, we have endorsed the Fair Tax campaign and many JCUA members were involved in the work that that put the referendum on the 2020 ballot. Now that we operate through an organizing model — with a membership base of nearly 2,000 across Chicagoland and 12 congregation partners — we have an opportunity to play a strategic role and contribute to a victory in November 2020.

Fighting for and implementing a Fair Tax will serve JCUA’s mission to combat racism and poverty throughout Chicago. The current flat tax system, which generates insufficient revenue for critical public services that low-income people rely on, is yet another manifestation of systemic racism. Governments historically have written tax codes in ways that disproportionately burden the poor and people of color. A Fair Tax will work to relieve some of that burden.