“For weeks, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritkzer’s administration has cautioned that severe budget cuts could be on the way if voters don’t approve the proposed amendment to overhaul Illinois' income tax system,” the Tribune’s Rick Pearson writes.
Today Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton warned Illinoisans could face an across-the-board income tax hike of at least 20% if voters reject a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot to shift the state from a mandated flat-rate tax to a graduated-rate tax based on income. The threat feels like a new strategy in the campaign, Pearson notes.
In honor of the occasion, The Spin asked two of the state’s high-profile elected leaders — Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. Pritzker — when and how they’ll cast their ballot. Suffice to say it’s a bit of a mystery.
Less than two months before Election Day, Sheila Nix, a senior adviser in Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign, shares her views on the campaign’s fundraising efforts, what those polls mean and why voter turnout will take center stage after the Trump-Biden debates.
And U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the only Chicago-area Republican in Illinois' congressional delegation, is pushing back on President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose his bid for a second term.
While he didn’t call him out by name, Kinzinger wrote on Twitter, “Jefferson defeats Adams in 1800, setting up first peaceful power transition in America. This is fundamental, and will be preserved. I’ve taken the oath for military and Congress. I will uphold that oath."
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The Tribune’s Pearson writes: “Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton warned Thursday that Illinoisans could face an across-the-board income tax hike of at least 20% if voters reject a proposed constitutional amendment to shift the state from a mandated flat-rate tax to a graduated-rate tax based on income.”
“To adequately address the budget crisis under our current tax system, lawmakers will be forced to consider raising income taxes on all Illinois residents by at least 20% regardless of their level of income,” Stratton said during a virtual rally on behalf of the pro-amendment Vote Yes for Fairness group that marked the start of voting in Illinois.
Proponents said the amendment is needed to stop lower income wage earners from paying the same tax rate as the wealthy, increasing current income inequity, Pearson notes.
Opponents contend it would hurt those small businesses which pay through the personal income tax rate, cost jobs and exacerbate a decline in the state’s population, he writes.
Data point: A 20% increase would raise the state’s current 4.95 percent flat-rate personal income tax by nearly 1 percentage point to 5.94%. It would raise an estimated $4 billion a year, even more than the projected $3.4 billion that would be generated under a graduated-rate levy enacted if the amendment is ratified, said professor David Merriman, a longtime expert on state finances at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Read the rest of Pearson’s story here.
With President Trump yesterday declining to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses in November, several fellow Republican lawmakers are pushing back. Kinzinger, of Channahon, was among a small group who carefully criticized Trump publicly — without saying his name.
“The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792,” GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter. The New York Times notes that Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Wyoming U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney weighed in similarly, without mentioning or directly criticizing Trump.
Trump continues to claim, without evidence, that expanded mail-in voting this year will result in widespread fraud — tainting the election results. Asked multiple times and multiple ways whether he’ll accept the election results, he’s given only a wait-and-see answer. Read the latest from the AP’s Lisa Mascaro, Aamer Madhani and Kevin Freking here.
Much ado has been made in recent days about Biden and his affiliated campaign committees starting September with $466 million in the coffers — $140 million more than Trump’s $325 million, according to multiple news outlets. Republicans tend to have a leg up on fundraising.
But on a recent podcast Sheila Nix, a senior adviser to the Biden campaign and veteran of Illinois and D.C. politics, suggested the best fundraiser isn’t guaranteed a victory on Election Day: “I think money is not going to be a deciding factor — I think everyone has the money they need.”
While that kind of cash will keep your campaign TV ads on a loop, the rewards come Election Day may not be particularly large, Nix says.
“The number of undecided voters this cycle compared to 2016 is significantly lower ... there’s not as many persuadable voters left,” Nix said to Bradley Tusk, both former Illinois deputy governors under Rod Blagojevich, on his “firewall” podcast.
Polling matters: Biden is leading in the polls including in battleground states Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — that Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in 2016. Nevertheless, they’re not taking the lead for granted, Nix says: “I think we have a good path to victory, but there’s nothing we can take for granted and just say ‘it’s in the bag.’” She added that states Clinton narrowly won, like Minnesota, will also be a focus of the campaign.
Turnout matters: Some of those big donations will, no doubt, be used to hire and organize get-out-the-vote efforts. Nix said those so-called “GOTV” efforts have begun with early voting starting in a handful of states, including Illinois. The push will kick into overdrive after the debates wrap up.
Reminder: Hillary Clinton may have won the popular vote in 2016, but political observers believe a large enough chunk of Democratic voters sat out the election that it tipped the scales in Trump’s favor in the Electoral College, which has the final word on presidential contests.
Campaign trail tracker: Where Trump, Biden and their running mates have traveled in presidential race’s final weeks — Read the latest from the Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart and Jonathon Berlin here.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth will again hit the virtual campaign trial for Biden: The Iraq War veteran will be part of a “Commander in Chief” discussion, focusing on the role of the president in wartime and beyond.
More election news: Biden endorses fellow Democrat and first-term congresswoman Lauren Underwood’s bid for a second term representing the far north and west suburban and exurban 14th District.
“A registered nurse and public health expert, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood is the leader we need fighting for our families in Congress, particularly as we confront COVID-19,” Biden said in a prepared statement.
Underwood upset Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Plano in the midterm elections. Her victory in the GOP stronghold, combined with Sean Casten’s victory in the neighboring district, helped Democrats take control of the U.S. House in 2018.
Underwood’s facing businessman and GOP Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis in the general election.
Ives paints Casten as an ‘elitist’ in new campaign ad: You might say former Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton is trying to kick Casten in the pants with her new TV spot in the 6th Congressional District race. She dubs him a “wingtips”-wearing elitist who defended a proposed pay raise in Congress last year where he earns $174,000 annually. With all the visuals you’d expect, a narrator describes Ives as a military veteran who traded her Army boots for heels and went off to the state legislature where she “never voted to raise taxes.” Watch the ad here.
Will Pritzker, Lightfoot vote by mail or in person? Two of the state’s top-ranking Democrats have been talking up mail-in voting amid the pandemic but they haven’t said a lot about how they’ll cast their ballots this election cycle. Two messages to the governor’s office weren’t returned, but the governor did say during an unrelated news conference today that he used to love voting in person on Election Day, eventually took advantage of early voting as that option expanded and “in the last two years, I’ve been so busy I’ve been voting by mail."
Mayor Lightfoot’s top political adviser Dave Mellet said she’s still trying to decide whether she’ll vote by mail or in person; in the last election she voted in person at her local polling place.
From the Tribune’s Rick Pearson: Republican U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood introduced legislation Thursday backed by the GOP-aligned Illinois Policy Institute that would create a loan program for state and local governments — but it would effectively prevent Illinois from receiving any loan forgiveness because of its massive public employee pension debt.
The legislation has little chance of passage in a Democratic-controlled House and it comes amid continued dispute over federal assistance to state and local governments between the House and the GOP-controlled Senate.
But it did allow LaHood, of Peoria, to continue teeing off on Illinois financial woes. Read the full story here.
The Tribune’s Joe Mahr and Robert McCoppin write: Six months into the pandemic, the new virus has infected more than 28,000 Illinois long-term care residents and killed more than 4,000. It’s also fueled debate over the Illinois Department of Public Health’s oversight of a mostly for-profit industry. That includes how the agency cut back inspections, at times breaking state law, as the virus raced through facilities.
Overworked and underfunded IDPH officials have done the best they could to oversee nursing homes while also assuming the herculean task of being the state’s lead pandemic agency, advocates agree.
Others, however, question the state’s efforts. AARP Illinois said the state repeatedly failed to protect residents, be open with the public or accept advocates' input. The group wants state lawmakers to hold public hearings on what it called “alarming” actions. Even an industry trade group leader, Pat Comstock, complains the state has seemed to boldly announce initiatives only for efforts to quietly fizzle. Read more here.
In Illinois today, 2,257 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 30 additional deaths reported: Read the updates here.
Chicago-area parents rally to get kids back in school, and some districts are making it happen: Read the full story from McCoppin and Karen Ann Cullotta in the Tribune here.
Ex-child welfare worker and county board member pleads not guilty to child endangerment in death of 5-year-old AJ Freund: Read the Tribune story here.
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