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Column

Taxes, elections deserve mutual consideration

People who pay their taxes on or before Tax Day should not forget about the importance of participating in the process to elect trustworthy stewards of those tax dollars.

Thanks to electronic filing, Tax Day doesn’t seem to be the mad dash to the post office by procrastinating taxpayers to get a timely postmark that it once was.

April 15th traditionally is the deadline to file federal and state income tax returns without facing a penalty, although this year the deadline is Tuesday, April 17. The 15th falls on a Sunday, and the 16th is Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia, so out of respect for that holiday, Tax Day moves to the 17th.

(And wouldn’t procrastinators be happy if they could figure out how to delay the inevitable even longer?)

On their state returns, Illinoisans will see the effect of the income tax rate increase approved by the Legislature last summer over Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto, and which took effect, retroactively, last July 1.

The state’s tax rate rose to 4.95 percent for individual income taxes, compared to the old rate of 3.75 percent.

The corporate tax rate rose to 7 percent, compared to the old rate of 5.25 percent.

They say taxes are the price citizens pay for civilization, which is secured by the government.

Sometimes, though, we wonder whether the public makes a strong enough connection between the taxes they pay and the units of government that spend their money.

Think about it this way. A very large percentage of adult citizens pay taxes to the tax man, but what percentage of adult citizens turn out to elect the people who will spend those tax dollars? Sixty percent? Fifty percent? Forty percent? Thirty percent? Twenty percent? Less?

In the Illinois primary last month, voter turnout was 31.4 percent in Bureau County. Looking back at similar primaries where the governor’s office was up for election, Bureau County voter turnout was 21.3 percent in March 2014, 17.4 percent in March 2010, and 19.5 percent in March 2006.

Maybe if the day they collected taxes and the day they elected the people to oversee their expenditure were closer together, the message would more fully resonate.

People who had just finished their tax returns, and who had seen how much of their hard-earned income must be forked over to the tax man, might be in a more receptive mood to do their civic duty at the polls.

Indeed, with Tax Day fresh in their minds, and remembering its impact on their own finances, people might — just might — be more inclined to participate in the election process and help to elect trustworthy stewards of their tax dollars.

Merging Tax Day and Election Day might be an impractical idea, but it’s easy to do so mentally.

Thinking “elections” on Tax Day, and thinking “taxes” on Election Day, might be the boost that people need to boost turnout at the polls.

Think about that when the next Election Day rolls around on Nov. 6.

— Bureau County Republican Editorial Board

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