USA

Graduated-rate tax amendment rally gets sidetracked by Toni Preckwinkle pitch for Kim Foxx’s reelection

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, left, and Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, left, and Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx. (Chicago Tribune photos)

An hourlong virtual rally in support of a proposed state constitutional amendment to change Illinois' income tax system to a graduated-rate tax was sidetracked Friday night by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle delivering a lengthy pitch for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s reelection and for voters to reject two judges up for retention.

The rally of high-profile Democrats and allies, hosted by the proposed amendment’s chief supporter and funding advocate, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, also featured Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton alleging amendment opponents were billionaires fighting against “communities of color and women and working-class families all across the state.”

The proposed amendment, the top item on the Nov. 3 election ballot, would allow for a switch from Illinois' current constitutionally mandated flat-rate income tax to a graduated rate with a tax that increases along with income.

Democrats backed placing the amendment on the ballot, and Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, has spent $58 million of his wealth behind the Vote Yes for Fairness group supporting its ratification — a tally that includes another $1.5 million reported late Friday. Republicans oppose the amendment, and Ken Griffin, the wealthy founder and CEO of the Citadel hedge fund and investment group, has spent $53.75 million to defeat it.

Supporters contend a law approved that would take effect if the amendment is ratified would mean 97% of Illinoisans, those making $250,000 or less, would pay at least the same if not lower taxes than under the current 4.95% personal flat-rate tax. Opponents contend the amendment would lead to lawmakers cherry-picking tax rates in the future, particularly on higher incomes, jeopardizing business growth and jobs.

But pro-amendment discussion of the proposed amendment, dubbed the “fair tax” by supporters, gave way when Preckwinkle, the Cook County Democratic Party chair and a strong supporter of Foxx, made a lengthy pitch for her reelection during her six minutes of speaking time.

“Kim is in a tough race and really needs our support,” Preckwinkle said of the first-term state’s attorney, who has faced controversy over her handling of the office, most notably over her handling of the case of former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who allegedly faked a hate crime attack against himself in early 2019.

“I think the nature of the campaign that’s been waged against her is really a campaign against all of the criminal justice reforms we’ve been struggling so hard to enact — for people who want to go back to the bad old days when the jail was often full of poor Black and brown people who were often there on charges of nonviolent offenses and they just couldn’t pay their bail,” Preckwinkle said.

“It’s the folks who want to take us back to the bad old days who are opposing her candidacy. So we’re working hard for Kim, and I know she will win as well,” Preckwinkle said.

Preckwinkle also urged a “no” vote on the retention of two Cook County judges that the party did not endorse — Mauricio Araujo and Michael Toomin.

Toomin, the presiding judge of the juvenile justice division, received criticism for making it harder for juveniles seeking release from detention due to the pandemic. Toomin also appointed special prosecutor Dan Webb, who has criticized how Foxx’s office handled the Smollett case.

Foxx also appeared at the virtual rally but made little mention of her reelection bid in the four-and-a-half minutes she spoke. Instead, she said “we cannot separate this talk around the fair tax and fair funding to be able to provide the services and resources to our most vulnerable communities from the work that I do in the criminal justice space.”

“This isn’t about taking from one and giving to another in an unfair way. It’s pay your fair share,” Foxx said. “This is not a handout. This is a fair share.”

Preckwinkle wasn’t the only speaker to deviate from the subject. Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth told viewers, “thank you so much for the incredible work you’re doing to pass the fair tax,” before urging support for Democrats across the ballot and blasting Republican President Donald Trump in her two-and-a-half minute speech.

Featuring advocates for the proposal that included representatives of organized labor, the virtual rally also featured Stratton, the first Black person to become lieutenant governor in Illinois. Stratton, in a previous pro-amendment video, warned that voter failure to enact the tax change could lead to a 20% hike in the personal income tax rate, taking it to 5.95% for everyone regardless of income.

Stratton said voter ratification of the tax would “ensure that all communities are given the opportunity to thrive.”

“Here’s the bottom line: When you have billionaires spending millions of dollars trying to kill the fair tax amendment, that should tell you something. And what it tells me, they know this will benefit communities of color and women and working-class families all across the state,” Stratton said.

“So you know what we need to do, right? We need to give them a rude awakening by making sure that our votes and our voices carry more power than their dollars,” she said.

The anti-amendment Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment, heavily funded by Griffin, issued a statement and video before the pro-amendment rally.

Tony Duncan, a small-business owner featured in the group’s anti-amendment ads, said, “The same politicians in Springfield that got us into this mess are the same ones trying to hike our taxes now. We cannot trust them.”

Football news:

Muller scored his 47th goal in the Champions League and moved into 10th place ahead of Inzaghi. Zlatan and Shevchenko have 48 goals each
Liverpool and Porto broke into the Champions League play-offs - there are already 8 teams. Which ones? And who is about to be added to them?
Now Liverpool are also without Alisson. The group was won by his 22-year-old substitute with 0 minutes in the Premier League and the Champions League
Diego Simeone: In three games where there were draws, we deserved more
Conte on victory over Gladbach: We beat the group leader and are still alive
Klopp on the victory over Ajax: One of the most important matches of the Champions League in my time at Liverpool
Llorente on the draw with Bayern: we Feel anger and rage. A last-minute penalty leaves a bad taste