Labor union coalition pushes for income tax changes - New York News

Labor union coalition pushes for income tax changes

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A coalition of labor unions and community activists claims that most new jobs in Chicago are going to college-educated white workers, leaving poor African-Americans and Latinos at the tipping point.

Calling themselves the "Grassroots Collaborative," they're pushing for big policy changes at City Hall and in Springfield, including big changes in the Illinois income tax.

Of the five items on the coalition's agenda, their income tax proposal is the one affecting the most people. They would replace Illinois's current flat income tax with one that has higher rates on higher earners. Critics warn such a change could be disastrous for the state's deeply-troubled economy.

Amisha Patel and Nate Ryan work in a small office in the South Loop that is home to the Grassroots Collaborative, but make no mistake: their coalition includes the Chicago Teachers Union and other powerful labor groups such as the Service Employees International Union, and UNITE Here's hotel and restaurant workers. Next Tuesday, they plan to release a study claiming that, since 2002, only a quarter of Chicago's new jobs have gone to residents who already lived in the city, even as some employers got state and local tax breaks.

"If we're going to spend subsidies, let's spend it actually in the neighborhoods that are blighted and are struggling, where that money is supposed to be spent, not in these gleaming skyscrapers downtown," Patel says.

The coalition, in fact, has a plan to raise taxes on the hundreds of thousands who now live and work downtown. A proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution, co-sponsored by several dozen Democrats in the General Assembly, would make the current flat 5% state income tax graduated, with higher rates for higher earners.

Asked how he defines the rich and who should pay the top rate, Amisha Patel says, "I think it varies. I think it could be someone who makes $150,000; $200,000. I think we really have to look at the numbers."

Critics complain that such tax increases are exactly what Illinois's worst-in-the-Midwest economy does not need.

"They're gonna call it a tax on the rich," Ted Dabrowski of the Illinois Policy Institute says. "They're gonna call it a Fair Tax. But the truth is it's a tax hike and they want to give more money to the politicians in Illinois. They're running this state into the ground. Springfield politicians do not need more taxpayer dollars."

Supporters of a graduated income tax hope it will be on the ballot in November of next year. It would need the approval of a super majority 60 percent of voters.

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