The oldest name in the governor’s race is the only candidate with a new idea.
Bill Daley, a member of a family that has held elective office continuously since 1934, says he would consider supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Illinois’s flat tax and replace it with a graduated income tax.
Illinois is one of only seven states with a flat tax. At 5 percent, we’re tied with Utah for the highest across-the-board rate. The tax increase that passed in 2011 will begin to expire in 2015. There’s not likely to be much support for extending it. But there may be support for a tax system that cuts taxes on the poor and middle class and requires the well-to-do to pay a higher share. It’s not a socialistic idea. Thirty-five states -- all of them in better fiscal shape than Illinois -- have a graduated income tax.
(The Daley and the Madigans are both to blame for our current tax system. Richard M. Daley and Michael Madigan both began their political careers as delegates to the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention, which imposed the flat tax. Two years later, both were elected to the General Assembly -- Madigan to the House, Daley to the Senate.)
The next governor should commit to put a middle-class tax cut on the ballot, one that cuts taxes for at least 90 percent of regular Illinoisans while asking those of us who have done well to pay more, the sort of balanced approach to taxes that I worked for as President Barack Obama's chief of staff.
That fact that we have politicians who have endorsed this change but failed to achieve it is disappointing to say the least.
The Legislature should first pass legislation that lays out in clear terms what that new tax system would look like, so voters know exactly what they are voting for before they walk into the voting booth. Or it should review the entire tax structure to make it fit today's 21st-century economy, instead of reflecting the outdated approaches of the last century.
Thus far, the graduated income tax has been pushed only by a few liberal legislators, led by Sen. Kwame Raoul. Daley’s endorsement means it should become part of the debate in the governor’s election. It may be the only way Illinois can pay its bills.