Tax and Budget

Released October 1, 2020

On November 3rd, 2020, Illinois voters will have the opportunity to ratify the proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would eliminate the mandate that state income taxes be assessed using only one flat rate.

This is a crucial moment for Illinois since it has historically been, and currently remains, one of the most unfair taxing states in the nation. From a textbook standpoint, an “unfair” tax system is a regressive tax system—that is, one that imposes a greater tax burden on low- and middle-income families than on affluent families, when tax burden is measured as a percentage of income.  It is unfair because such a system fails to allocate tax burden in a manner that correlates with ability to pay, thereby worsening the substantial growth in income inequality that has occurred in the private sector over the last four decades. But building fairness into a state tax system is difficult, given that every tax—or fee for that matter—which is available to fund public services provided at the state or local level is regressive except for one: the income tax.  The income tax is the only tax that can actually be designed to comport with ability to pay and hence create some tax fairness, because it is the only tax that can be designed to assess higher tax rates on higher levels of income, and lower rates on lower levels of income.

Unfortunately, Article IX, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution mandates that the state income tax be imposed at one flat rate across all levels of income. Hence, Illinois is constitutionally prohibited from utilizing the income tax to play the essential tax policy role of offsetting the natural regressivity of every other tax and fee imposed at either the state or local level. In fact, Illinois’ inability to build some fairness into its tax system through implementation of a graduated rate income tax has played a major role in driving the ongoing deficits in the state’s General Fund, while also hampering private sector economic growth.  The good news is a genuine opportunity for meaningful reform of the Illinois income tax now exists. That is because on June 5, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed Public Act 101-0008 (“P.A. 101-0008”) into law. If implemented, this legislation will create a new, graduated rate income tax structure, frequently referred to as the “Fair Tax” by proponents, to replace the state’s current flat rate income tax.

To learn more about how the Fair Tax not only ties income tax burden to ability to pay, but also raises new revenue in a manner that will effectively help eliminate some of the long-term structural flaws that have consistently made Illinois’ overall tax system one of the most unfair and poorly performing in the nation, please read the new CTBA Report, “Implementing the “Fair Tax” Will Help the Illinois Fiscal System Respond Better to the Modern Economy While Promoting Tax Fairness.”

Released August 4, 2020

Fully Funding the Evidence-Based Formula: 2020 Update” is an update to the “Fully Funding the Evidence-Based Formula: Four Scenarios” report from 2019. The updated 2020 report highlights three different funding scenarios, identifying for each scenario how long, and how much money would be required to fund an adequate and equitable education as identified by the Evidence-Based Funding Formula. 

Released May 13, 2020

Illinois’ overreliance on property taxes is a result of historic shift of funding K-12 Education from the state-level to the local-level.  While many would benefit from a temporary property tax freeze, there are also costs associated with a property tax freeze—particularly when it comes to funding an adequate education for millions of Illinois school children. A property tax freeze could pose substantial costs to students across the state by limiting the amount of funding districts could receive compared to the current law in which there is no property tax freeze. Using 2019 Illinois Report Card and average year-to-year growth in: (i) K-12 funding under the EBF; (ii) property tax revenue; and (iii) funding of mandated categoricals, the short report, Potential Impact of a Property Tax Freeze on School Fundinghighlights some of those consequences that a property tax freeze could have, not only on school funding, but along racial lines, as well.

Released May 5, 2020

This report shows how the data make it quite clear that: Illinois incurred pension debt—under both Republicans and Democrats-- to mask its fiscal problems, not to pay irresponsibly high benefits; Illinois is not a high spending state, and in fact has cut spending on services in real terms by more than 23% since FY2000; that over $9 out of every $10 Illinois, and frankly every other state in America, spends on services goes to the four core areas of Education (including Pre-K, K-12, and Higher Ed), Healthcare, Human Services and Public Safety—meaning those are the services which are imperiled if the feds don’t come through with a significant relief package for state governments suffering revenue loss from the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; and the Pritzker Administration has actually pushed a number of fiscal initiatives that are actually responsible and counter some of the poor practices of the past.

Released October 21, 2019

The state of Illinois faces a significant structural deficit into the future. The report highlights the nature of the structural deficit and identifies two key causes: the state’s historically flawed  tax policy and the plan devised for repayment of Illinois’ pension debt. CTBA proposes both the adoption of the Fair Tax and a reamortization of the pension debt as described in the report titled: Addressing Illinois’ Pension Debt Crisis With Reamortization. Doing so would allow the State to ensure full funding for the Evidence Based Funding Formula while also improving the status of Illinois’ public employee pension system and eliminating the State’s structural deficit by 2042.

Released May 22, 2019

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) released a report, How a Graduated Rate Income Tax Would Help Reduce After-Tax Income Inequality in Illinois, which shows that the implementation of a graduated rate income tax can reduce the regressivity of Illinois’ state and local tax system

Released May 22, 2019

Since 1979, the nation has seen a rapid and significant increase in income inequality between low- and middle-income Americans on the one hand, and the wealthiest one percent on the other.

Released February 18, 2019

One idea that has been proposed by a number of observers to repay some of Illinois’ pension debt is an “asset transfer.” Under this proposal, the state (or the City of Chicago, which is also facing a large pension debt problem) would make a contribution to the pension systems in the form of a pub

Released October 2, 2018

The FY2019 Illinois General Fund budget is the first budget agreed upon by both the General Assembly and the Governor in Illinois since FY2015.

Released October 10, 2018

After just one year of implementation, Illinois’ new school funding formula – the Evidence Based Funding for Student Success Act, or EBF – holds out the promise of closing Illinois’ drastic funding and achievement gaps both between schools in property-rich and property-poor districts, as well as

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