Public, private Pritzker tax promise called contradictory
Billionaire gubernatorial candidate J. B. Pritzker has said publicly that his tax hike proposals would start by targeting millionaires and billionaires, but audio recordings of closed door meetings suggest that might not be the case, the Illinois Republican Party charged recently.
Pritzker, who has long been on the fringes of the state’s Democratic Party and is heir to the Hyatt hotel chain, is well-known for his connections within the party. His sister, Penny, served as secretary of commerce under President Barack Obama.
The Illinois Republican Party released the audio clip titled More Pritzker Audio - Raise the Flat Tax online last week. The GOP says the recording is of Pritzer talking to other Democrats.
“Let’s remind everybody, the tax used to be 5 percent, and [Rauner] let it lapse down to 3-3/4 percent … so if you just put it back, that’s $5 billion dollars," Rauner is heard saying. "That doesn’t get you everything you need, but it’s a good way toward, you know, toward getting real revenue in the state."
The GOP argues that the problem with putting the tax rate “back,” as Pritzker calls it, is that the increase won’t be hitting millionaires and billionaires first, as he promised.
Illinois has a flat income tax rate. In order to adjust the tax rates of citizens based on their wealth and ability to pay, there would have to be either voter approval of a graduated tax rate or a constitutional amendment. The Tribune argues neither of those options appears viable before at least 2020.
Pritzker, whose worth is estimated to be $3.4 billion, was a strong supporter of Hilary Clinton during her presidential campaign. He also donated millions of dollars to Priorities USA Action, the super PAC that backed Obama’s 2012 re-election bid and Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 bid.
Illinois residents, who already face one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, might not take kindly to the idea of raising taxes or returning to previous higher rates. Although the higher rate would increase state revenue by $5 billion, it would not solve the state's overall financial woes.
If such a tax increase were to take effect, the middle class and retired people living on pensions would most likely face the highest tax burdens.
Another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Chris Kennedy, has not said what he would do regarding taxes, but he has been reported in meetings with House Speaker Mike Madigan. The Illinois Republican Party said he has refused on more than one occasion to specify exactly how much money he’s willing to spend to win an election. Kennedy donated $250,100 to his own campaign last month, which effectively removed the campaign limits for all the candidates in the gubernatorial race.
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