"A blank check for Springfield."
"Millionaires will finally pay their fair share."
"Permanent jobs tax on the middle class."
The sound bites are part of intensifying campaigns for and against moving Illinois from a flat income tax rate of 4.95 percent to a graduated tax system like those used by the federal government and 32 states.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposed tax rates range between 4.75 percent and 7.85 percent if you make less than $1 million a year. Any taxpayers who make more than $1 million a year would pay a flat rate of 7.95 percent. Corporate income tax rates also would increase.
The tax proposal is a fundamental shift, one we are still weighing and which our reporters will continue to cover extensively in the weeks to come.
In the bitterly partisan battle that is shaping up, spin is rampant, facts are stretched and flat-out lies aren't unheard of.
It's imperative that people learn to spot the ways lobbying interests are working to manipulate them. It's equally important for people to seek out facts about the tax proposal, rather than base opinions on direct mail and broadcast or online ads funded by untraceable donations from unknown sources.
Vested interests surrounding the tax proposal rely on buzz words to create impressions. A single direct mail flyer distributed last week by the Coalition for Jobs, Growth & Prosperity includes no specifics on the graduated tax, but all of these phrases meant to alarm: "Tipping the scales against you," "hand Springfield politicians a blank check," "permanent jobs tax on the middle class," "a blank check with no answers," "Madigan and Pritzker's phony sales pitch" and more.
Backers like Think Big Illinois use a different lexicon, calling the proposal a "fair tax" that will "protect working families and make our system more fair," a spin we previously cited as inappropriate on official state websites.
PolitiFact has called out both sides, criticizing the "jobs tax" claim and Think Big Illinois' characterization of other states' graduated tax systems.
Who's behind the groups? The Coalition for Jobs, Growth & Prosperity and Think Big Illinois both use anonymous donors' funds, sometimes called dark money. Think Big Illinois pledges to release donor names.
Our advice? Ignore the ads and flyers. Read the bill (find it at https://bit.ly/2InCpXU), which seeks to put a proposed constitutional amendment before voters, probably in November 2020. Find out about the proposed tax brackets, which require a separate law. Rely on reputable news reports so you can weather the propaganda battle and be ready to cast an informed vote, if it comes to that.