Should Chicago have a city income tax? A columnist suggests that, plus Cullerton 'likes Illinois'

Apr 11, 2014

John Cullerton has a confession to make.

He likes Illinois.

That’s what the Senate President said in an op-ed he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times. And, despite accusations being made that he’s too optimistic about the state, Cullerton says Illinois has made progress over the last five years even if everything is not “all rainbows and unicorns.”

Despite the optimism, Cullerton acknowledges there still is work to do, especially in the coming weeks when decisions on school funding and tax structure will take place. The tax structure Cullerton alludes to includes the state income tax, but if a Chicago Tribune columnist has his way, a future tax structure could also include a city income tax for Chicago.

Columnist Eric Zorn says in an ideal world, he would reject ideas about all taxes, but we live in the real world and, as a result, he believes instituting a city income tax might be the right way to go.

Writes Zorn:

The alternative now on the table is a $250 million city >

Other revenue-boosting alternatives include increases in so-called sin taxes, an expansion of sales taxes to cover services, casino gambling, financial transaction taxes, fee hikes, employee head taxes and more punitive fines for minor transgressions.

They all have their downsides. They all risk unintended consequences. They all stick in my craw, and probably your craw, too.

But if the alternative is a significant decrease in city services leading to a deteriorating quality of civic life, a city income tax is among the least objectionable options for balancing the books.

Here are four reasons why:

1. More than any other taxes, income taxes are most closely related to a citizen’s ability to pay.

Yes, wealthy people tend to own more valuable > and pay higher >

Lose your job? End up on disability? Find your neighborhood rapidly gentrifying around you? The >

2. Income taxes can easily be tweaked to go easiest on low wage earners.

Either through graduated rates or exemption thresholds, income taxes can be designed to take a proportionally bigger bite from those on the high end of the income scale.

3. Income taxes are more transparent than >

Click here to check out Msall and Tillman’s counterarguments.

While it is not a flawless proposal, Zorn believes it is an idea to consider rather than reject.

And here are more stories you should consider and read, rather than reject:

This infographic provides a snapshot of the scope of Chicago’s pension trouble.

Resistance among public sector unions already had been building when Emanuel sent his bill to Springfield.

Here are the main points of union opposition to the state’s new pension law. 

How did pensions go from a path to retirement security to a national crisis? This graphic charts it over 200 years.

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