Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove)
State Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) wonders how much longer Illinois taxpayers will be forced to carry the burden of poor policymaking.
“The solution to Chicago's budget problem is not more taxes,” Oberweis told the Will County Gazette. “Illinois already has the highest combination of state and local taxes in the nation. If Chicago were to add a city income tax to the already high taxes Chicago residents pay, it would lead to even more people leaving Illinois.”
Supporters are pushing a city income tax to help achieve Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's stated goal of tackling an $838 million budget shortfall. While still a candidate, Lightfoot scoffed at the notion of a municipal income tax, but she could easily change her tune now that she's faced the seriousness of the city’s fiscal crisis.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
A 2011 study conducted by Chicago’s Office of Inspector General estimated that a 1-percent tax could generate as much as $500 million a year. Early last year, the Action Center on Race & the Economy insisted that a 3.5-percent tax only on household incomes over $100,000 could produce upward of $1 billion.
Oberweis, now running against U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville) in the 14th Congressional District, insists that none of that could convince him to place even more burden on taxpayers.
“I have a long track record of opposing tax increases,” Oberweis said. “This is not a proposal I would support. It is not the fault of taxpayers that city leaders cannot balance the budget. The city has been horribly managed for decades. Let's get the budget under control before city leaders invent a new tax that will hurt the middle class.”
As Chicago’s population dropped over a four-year period ending in 2017, personal income skyrocketed by more than $10 billion as wealthier residents quickly replaced poorer ones being priced out, according to Illinois Policy Institute Director of Budget Adam Schuster. But Schuster warns that an income tax could quickly drive even more people out of the city.
Oberweis has many of the same concerns.
“If you look at California, a lot of the major cities there have forced middle-class families out because of the high cost to live in those communities,” he said. “If Chicago implements an income tax, we will see the same thing here and that does not bode well for the future of Chicago.”