Feminist Fair Tax Explainer: Why Women's Groups Say to Vote Yes

illinois fair tax woman holding money

You’ve seen the commercials, you’ve gotten the fliers in the mail, you’ve tried, in vain, to skip the ads on YouTube, and if you’re still wondering what the Illinois Fair Tax amendment is, we’ve got a quick explainer for you.

On the November 3, 2020, ballot, Illinois voters are asked to approve the so-called Fair Tax amendment to the state constitution. In order for the amendment to pass, more than 50 percent of those voting in the election or more than 60 percent of those voting on the question need to vote Yes. 

Here’s how the issue appears on the ballot:

The proposed amendment grants the State authority to impose higher income tax rates on higher income levels, which is how the federal government and a majority of other states do it. The amendment would remove the portion of the Revenue Article of the Illinois Constitution that is sometimes referred to as the “flat tax,” that requires all taxes on income to be at the same rate. The amendment does not itself change tax rates. It gives the State the ability to impose higher tax rates on those with higher income levels and lower income tax rates on those with middle or lower income levels. You are asked to decide whether the proposed amendment should become a part of the Illinois Constitution. For the proposed amendment of Section 3 of Article IX of the Illinois Constitution.

Vote Yes! for Fair Tax is a coalition of hundreds of labor, faith-based, and community organizations, and includes those serving women, children, and families such as: Black Women Organizing for Power-BWOP Chicago, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Chicago Women Take Action, Deborah’s Place, the League of Women Voters of Illinois, Mujeres Latinas en Accion, National Council of Jewish Women Chicago North Shore, National Organization for Women (NOW) – Illinois Chapter, Personal PAC, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, She Votes Illinois, Women Employed, Women’s March Chicago, and more.

On August 18, several of the organizations above held a news conference to mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to endorse the Fair Tax amendment and to unveil a list of “1,000 Women Leaders for Fair Tax Now.” You can watch media coverage of the news conference here.

“It is well known that woman are more likely to have lower incomes, earn disproportionately less than their male counterparts, and are most often the heads of single-parent households,” Laura Welch, president of Illinois NOW, said at the news conference, according to OneIllinois. “We strongly believe that the Fair Tax Amendment will help service providers have a better chance at fully funding programs that support women and underserved and unrepresented communities.”

Illinois currently has a constitutionally mandated “flat tax” rate, meaning everyone in the state pays the same income tax rate — 4.95 percent — regardless of their income. The amendment would allow legislators to raise tax rates for people with higher incomes and lower rates for folks making less. The Illinois General Assembly has pledged that if the amendment passes, “a new tax structure will go into effect where 97% of taxpayers will pay the same or less, while only those making more than $250,000 a year will see a tax increase.”

Proponents say the Fair Tax amendment:

  • Would tax Illinois residents based on their ability to pay
  • Raise revenue for schools and other priorities
  • Ease the state’s property tax crunch

Opponents include the state’s wealthiest man, Ken Griffin, who has donated nearly $50 million to efforts fighting the amendment. A group of business owners calling themselves the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment oppose the measure because they say it:

  • Gives politicians more power to raise taxes
  • Hurts small businesses
  • Wouldn’t provide the promised tax relief to the middle class

For more information about the Fair Tax amendment and how it may affect you and your family, visit the state’s Fair Tax calculator. We also have information about how to vote safely in the November 3 election, and a developing list of Chicago-area women running for office.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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Several of our fabulous Rebelles contributed to this piece.