ITEP Weighs In: Illinois Tax Reform Debate

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After years of relying on gimmicks and borrowing schemes to balance the state budget, Illinois elected officials are now signaling that they're prepared to think constructively and wisely about how to fill the state's $11.6 billion shortfall. Governor Pat Quinn, Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan, and Senator James Meeks have each proposed tax reforms built around an increase in the state's personal income tax -- and have also proposed providing targeted income tax reductions for middle-income families.

Now ITEP has released its own tax reform proposal. In a new report, ITEP shows that an income tax rate increase, in combination with targeted tax credits, could raise $3.6 billion in new state revenues while actually cutting the overall taxes paid by the poorest sixty percent of Illinoisans.

There's good reason for this emphasis on income tax reform. The Illinois income tax is undeniably one of the lowest income taxes in the nation. Its 3 percent flat tax rate is the lowest top income tax rate in the U.S. And of the 41 states that levied broad-based income taxes in 2006 (the most current year for which data are available), only four states' income tax collections were lower, as a share of personal income, than Illinois.

For too long Illinois has chosen to balance its budget on the backs of low and middle income taxpayers. Progressive revenue-raising options (like those discussed in the ITEP report) that alter the income tax are key if Illinois lawmakers want to solve the state's budget crisis.

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