Position Statement on the Illinois Fair Tax Amendment
Arts Alliance Illinois urges Illinoisans to vote yes on the Fair Tax Amendment in the upcoming election. By transitioning our state from a regressive flat income tax to a graduated income tax, the amendment will help provide desperately needed financial relief to artists and others struggling to make ends meet during the COVID crisis. It also presents the most viable route for the state to maintain its public arts and arts education funding, avoiding drastic cuts to the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
It is fundamentally unfair for the state to treat the $30,000 earned annually by a music teacher the same as the millions of dollars earned daily by the wealthiest of the wealthy – but that is exactly what Illinois is currently doing through its flat income tax. The Fair Tax would decrease the tax burden of lower and middle-income workers and call on the richest 3% of Illinoisans to pay a fair share.
Illinois artists struggling with the financial crisis of COVID need tax relief, but public arts funding also hangs in the balance. The graduated income tax is expected to increase state revenue by roughly $3.4 billion annually. The hope for financial assistance from Congress is fading, $8.5 billion in state unpaid bills are looming, and no major new funding sources are emerging – except the Fair Tax.
If the Fair Tax Amendment fails, Illinois could very well face the “perfect storm” of financial crises, a storm that could sink funding for the IACA, which depends heavily on general revenue. We, the arts sector, need Illinois voters to approve the Fair Tax Amendment.
Some in the nonprofit sector have expressed concern that the Fair Tax would curtail giving by the wealthiest Illinoisans by taking more of their income in taxes. Yet, when Illinois temporarily raised its income tax rate by two-thirds during 2011-2014, the adjusted gross income of tax filers earning over $1 million annually grew by 37.5 percent.* The wealthiest had more money to give, not less.
Most importantly, however, the Fair Tax is an issue of equity. State funding of the arts is particularly important to artists and arts organizations in communities of color and rural communities, where access to the wealthiest individual donors is limited. Equity calls us to advocate for the revenue necessary to make public arts funding viable. It calls for active support for the Fair Tax Amendment.