Pritzker’s progressive tax plan will hit the middle class

By Ted Dabrowski, Wirepoints | Oct 30, 2018


J.B. Pritzker has staked his run for governor on a progressive income tax, yet he won't say a word about his plan.

Since Pritzker won't tell anyone what his tax rates or brackets are, Wirepoints ran the numbers for him. We took estimates of his promised spending plans from the media and combined it with Illinois’ income tax data. He won’t like what we're exposing.

Pritzker’s dual campaign promises – to increase state spending by billions and at the same time protect Illinois middle-income workers from an income tax hike – are simply impossible to keep. The math says so.

No matter how you run the numbers, the progressive tax rates needed to fund Pritzker’s $10 billion-plus in promises would be harmful. They’ll punish the wallets of both the middle class and the wealthy.

(Im)possible rates

Pritzker wants to increase Illinois’ annual budget by at least $10.7 billion, spending billions more on everything from education to health care and from pensions to roads.

He also promises not to hit middle- and working-class Illinoisans under his hoped-for progressive tax scheme: “A fair income tax will raise taxes on people like Bruce Rauner and me to support education and help solve the state’s budget problem, while reducing the burden on the middle class.”

But Pritzker can’t just tax wealthy residents like himself and Rauner to pay for all his promises. There are simply not enough wealthy people in Illinois to do so.

To prove that, Wirepoints ran several progressive tax scenarios to see how Pritzker’s promises might work out.

Our first scenario takes Pritzker’s promise at his word – that he’ll only hike taxes on the rich while protecting all other residents from a tax hike. That creates an extreme case of only two tax brackets: one for filers with millionaire incomes and one for everyone else. To generate Pritzker’s $10.7 billion in new revenues, the rate on millionaire incomes would have to be an absurd 24.3 percent. It’s a plan that can be easily discarded as a nonstarter.

While it’s obvious that Pritzker would never actually propose the above structure, it illustrates the danger of campaign rhetoric that demands “the rich” pay for everything. Such promises can only go so far before they crash into financial reality.

The other two scenarios we ran only further proved our point: there is no realistic progressive tax rate structure that can bring in enough revenue to pay for Pritzker’s promises and not raise tax rates on the middle class.

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