Ken Griffin, the richest man in Illinois, is trying to keep the state broke. It was announced Friday morning that he is giving $20 million towards stopping the graduated income tax amendment that will be coming to Illinois voters in November, a ballot measure that would tax the rich (like Ken Griffin) to raise revenue for services and pensions for the rest of us. All Illinoisians should vote Yes on a graduated income tax so that Ken Griffin gets taxed at double his current rate and so that $20 million donation goes to waste.
Currently, Illinois is one of only nine states in the country to have a flat income tax, as is mandated by our state constitution. Working class people are taxed at 4.95%, exactly the same as Ken Griffin, who has a net worth of $15 billion. This is outrageous: the rich are constitutionally barred from paying their fair share; billionaires are expected to pay the same proportion of their income as people who are struggling to get by. If Ken Griffin were taxed at 90% he would still be a billionaire, yet he is paying only 4.95%. This is wrong, and the voters have the opportunity to fix it. A ballot measure in November would approve a change to the constitution and impose a graduated income tax, the rates of which can be seen below:
Individuals earning less than $100,000 per year would actually see a decrease in their taxes, yet the stark increase for the rich, who can afford to contribute more, is significant enough to raise over a billion dollars in new revenue. If you have ever looked at an Illinois state budget and thought that there should be a billion more dollars to support ongoing services, turns out the answer is “tax the rich” and it has been all along.
But the rich are fighting back, using the only tool they have: their money. With Mr. Griffin’s $20 million injection to try and stop this tax reform, the graduated income tax is now the most expensive ballot measure in Illinois history. It’s still chump change to the Citadel CEO: he is so wealthy he can easily spend $20 million—less than 0.1% of his net worth—to prevent the state from having any more of his riches. The fact that he can take 0.1% of his net worth and immediately make this the most expensive ballot measure in history is exactly why it is so important that he be taxed. Wealth at that level can change—and degrade—our democratic processes on a whim.
Taxing billionaires is popular, so we can expect this money to go towards misleading advertisements (they are already calling this measure a “tax hike” even though the vast majority of Illinoisians would see no change or even a decrease in their taxes). Don’t fall for it. Vote yes, tell your friends and family to vote yes, and together let’s enact the biggest wealth redistribution from the top in Illinois history. Ken Griffin is trying to buy your vote so that he can keep his money. Instead, let’s tax him and put this campaign donation to waste.