Money-hungry elected officials are preparing to pull another fast one on the voters.
When legislators passed a dramatic state income tax increase in January 2011, they promised that part of that tax hike would be temporary.
That claim was not credible then, and it's even less credible now that the state continues to drown in debt and deficit. What they're really planning is another big income tax increase that they're planning to sell with a misdirection play called a progressive income tax: ever-rising tax rates on increased levels of income.
Gov. Pat Quinn is backing this revenue-generating ploy. So is Democratic gubernatorial challenger William Daley. If she gets into the governor's race, it's likely that Attorney General Lisa Madigan also will hop aboard.
Locally, state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson and state Sen. Michael Frerichs are backing the progressive income tax as a means of obtaining more money for legislators to spend.
Although state officials have talked for months of their desire for new revenue, it was just last week when state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, introduced a proposal for passing an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would allow a graduated income tax and spoke of the need to "build momentum" for his plan.
Illinois currently is among 16 states with a flat income tax. Thirty-four states have progressive income taxes, and the levels of taxation in those states foreshadows what would inevitably take place in Illinois.
Virtually all of them have higher graduated income tax rates on lower levels of income than Illinois. Missouri has 10 tax brackets; its highest rate is 6 percent starting on income in excess of $9,000. Wisconsin applies rates of 6.15 percent and 6.5 percent on incomes in excess of $10,750 and $21,130, respectively.
California whacks big earners by imposing a top rate of 13 percent but hits middle-income earners with a tax rate of 9.3 percent on incomes in excess of $49,942. It's similar in New York, where the tax rate is 6.45 percent on incomes in excess of $20,000.
Do those rates looks like they pound the rich but exclude the average Joe? Hardly.
There's a good reason that states with progressive income taxes impose high rates on middle-income earners. There aren't enough so-called wealthy people to provide the income elected officials in those states desire to spend. They have to go after middle income earners because that is where the money is, and, official protestations to the contrary, it would be no different here.
Illinois has a flat tax rate of 5 percent on all income. It was 3 percent until January 2011, when legislators approved a two-thirds (66 percent) increase to 5 percent. That increase was passed to boost state revenues by an estimated $7 billion a year, and legislators pledged to use the money to pay bills.
They also said the tax would be lowered from 5 percent to 4 percent in January 2015.
Well, they didn't use the money to pay bills, and they are determined not to allow income tax revenues to go down.
It would be no surprise if legislators offer to allow the scheduled lower rate (from 5 percent to 4 percent) to take effect if voters will amend the constitution in a way that allows them to approve graduated income tax rates.
They will pledge, of course, to soak only the rich. But, just like in every other state with a graduated income tax, they'll eventually target middle-income earners.
Harmon and his co-sponsors are laying the groundwork for this campaign of deceit and dishonesty. Don't believe it. Our legislators have shown time and again that their words mean nothing when it comes to responsibly handling public money. This is an issue of public trust, and they have shown themselves to be unworthy of it.