By: Mark Glennon*
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but something curious is going on with the Fair Tax proposal – the constitutional amendment on the ballot in the coming election to permit a progressive tax increase.
It’s that Democratic lawmakers, who want a Yes vote, have gone mostly silent.
Support for the Fair Tax splits on party lines among candidates and incumbent General Assembly members, with Republicans opposed. Most lawmakers from both parties are out campaigning for reelection now, so the silence of the Democrats certainly seems to tell us that they are getting an earful about higher taxes.
Sure, Democrats may have something supportive on their web pages or in Facebook, but they have gotten mighty shy about writing or talking about it and the $3.1 billion tax increase that would follow. The only exception I have seen is Sen. Don Harmon, from ultra-left Oak Park.
Republicans, on the other hand, are pounding away in opposition.
With no recent, public polls to consider, that may be the best indication we have of what voters think. The last polling indication we got was almost three weeks ago, when Crain’s reported on a private poll indicating that the amendment was already on the edge, and sentiment against it seems to have grown since then. Less scientific, online polls in mid-October run by the Herald-Review and Pantagraph both showed more than two to one opposing.
From comments we see it’s primarily that more Illinoisans have finally realized they can’t trust Springfield with more money. Fear that the amendment will make it easier to pass further tax increases including a tax on retirement income is also strong – and justified.
And with “No more money for you” seeming to be the message, that means voters aren’t buying supporters’ claims that there is no alternative to tax increases. Voters must know there is an alternative: reforms. They want the underlying problems fixed.
The biggest of those underlying problems fueling the appetite for more tax money is pensions. Informed voters know that, and they also know that meaningful pension reform requires a constitutional amendment to the pension protection clause. The wrong amendment is on the ballot, in other words.
Wirepoints has laid out in detail how a constitutional amendment for pension reform can work. Our report includes specifics on how Illinois could, through that process, save more than the initial revenue claimed by Fair Tax supporters, without undue hardship on pensioners.
Illinoisans of all stripes are no doubt tired of being ignored on other reforms they’ve long wanted. Fair maps and term limits have, for years, had strong, bipartisan support in Illinois, but lawmakers will have none of that or any number of other reforms that are long overdue.
The biggest financial priority, however, is pension reform. We’d love to see candidates ask this at their campaign events: Which amendment should be on the ballot, the progressive tax increase or pension reform? The silence of Fair Tax supporters tell us why they aren’t asking.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.