Would you agree to tax yourself more for the government’s treasure chest? Think about all the taxes you pay a day from your morning coffee to the cable TV you watch at night. Sometimes it feels like we pay a tax to breathe. We the People decide our fiscal responsibility to the state on ballot referendums. Arizona and Illinois had very similar ballot tax questions to raise state income tax on people making over $250,000 a year. Arizonans won the right to tax the rich while Illinois floundered. But why?
Arizona proposed a ballot referendum to a 3.50% increase in taxes for $250,000 (single filer) or $500,000 for dual-income. The increase in taxes would be directly distributed to a School support fund to increase teacher salaries and supportive funds for school districts for kids with disabilities. Arizonans passed this progressive measure yet the pressure of this tax increase is on the backs of the income bracket that doesn’t use the public school system. Upper-middle-class families are diehard private school investors from preschool through college. So why are they paying the bill? It sounds just a little bit like taxation without representation. But people voted themselves out of their own money. You can’t fight that one.
Illinoisans were asked to increase the state personal income tax calling it a graduated income tax creating a tiered higher tax base starting at $250,000 a year. It failed at the polls. The difference in these two taxes is most likely the promises bestowed for the increased income for the government. Arizona had a direct line to fund an honorable public education system when Illinois basically just said tax the rich (or the perceived rich since $250,000 isn’t rich by today’s standards). Illinois is a fiscal mess with Moody’s considering Illinois near “junk” status state. Illinois residents know we have money trouble but didn’t approve a higher income for the state. Why? I’m betting it has something to do with the same reason we see lottery winners lose everything. Illinois is horribly mismanaged though they have increased state income tax and every other tax you could possibly create. If Illinois doesn’t manage it’s money well now, how can taxing the rich make anything better?
Taxes on the ballots have been a successful way for states to balance their mismanagement of funding to bankroll all their legislative pork barrelling. In taxes and voting the focus is on the presentation of the ballot referendum. Illinois might have won if there was a direct fund for some honorable mentioned social issue. It might have won if Moody’s wasn’t always at the back door and on the front pages of every paper. Either way, the tale of these two taxes boils down to one thing, taxes still burden the people-whether they’re the so-called rich upper-middle-class or residents of a fiscally crumbling state, We the People know what’s best for all of us. Don’t think we aren’t watching where our money goes or doesn’t go.