Spring of inaction: 2016 legislative session proves Illinois needs a taxpayer bill of rights | Illinois Policy | Illinois’ comeback story starts here
Illinoisans need a taxpayer bill of rights so that politicians must ask permission from voters if they want to raise taxes.
Colorado adopted a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, as an amendment to the Colorado Constitution. The Colorado TABOR requires any government to seek voter approval before imposing a new tax or raising existing tax rates. The TABOR also contains a formula that determines how much in taxes a government can collect in a year, based on increases in population and inflation. If more revenues are collected than the formula allows, then the governing entity is required to reimburse the excess money back to the taxpayers.
A provision in Colorado’s TABOR allows excess revenues to be kept by the government if the taxpayers give voter approval through a ballot initiative. Anytime there is a proposal to raise taxes or keep excess tax revenues, the ballot must provide the following: information on the governing entity’s current and previous four years of spending, the proposed tax increase in percentages and estimated dollar amounts, and summaries of support for and opposition to the proposed tax increase.
Despite the high tax burden already borne by Illinoisans, politicians made several attempts to raise taxes on Illinois residents during the spring 2016 legislative session, including:
- Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, introduced the idea of tracking Illinois motorists and taxing them by the mile.
- State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, proposed a 30-cents-per-gallon hike in gas taxes.
- Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, reintroduced the idea of a special tax on millionaires.
- State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, pushed a progressive tax plan that would have eliminated the Illinois Constitution’s flat-tax-rate requirement, instituted a progressive tax rate, and changed the state’s existing income-tax rates.
- A new penny-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages was also introduced.
All of these tax proposals could have become law, and taxpayers had no direct way of preventing it. In fact, there are currently no protections in place to stop politicians from raising taxes to support out-of-control spending.
Taxpayers in Illinois already suffer under the burden of some of the highest property taxes in the nation. Residents of Chicago, in particular, are the most-taxed residents of any major city in Illinois, and they have the highest sales tax among major U.S. cities.
If Illinois had a taxpayer bill of rights, the government wouldn’t be able to suddenly impose taxes on residents without their approval. This would allow businesses and residents to know their long-term tax liabilities and to budget accordingly. Taxpayers would also benefit from having a more efficient and transparent government because the taxpayer bill of rights would require politicians to disclose how they spend taxpayer money.
Illinois residents have spent too much time under a government notorious for irresponsible tax-and-spend policies that hurt Illinoisans. A taxpayer bill of rights would be a win for Illinois taxpayers.