SPRINGFIELD — As soon as I heard Illinois lawmakers were considering taxing plastic and paper shopping bags, I purchased a half dozen canvas bags to take with me on future shopping trips.
I don’t like paying taxes. And bringing my own reusable bags struck me as a good tax-avoidance strategy.
Of course, the environmentalists who are lobbying for the legislation hope more people will respond to the tax the same way I have. They want fewer bags heading to landfills and entering waterways.
I can’t argue with their logic. When you tax something, you create a deterrent for people. That’s one of the reasons the state puts a $1.98 tax on every pack of cigarettes sold in the Land of Lincoln.
Lawmakers hope the tax is a financial incentive for people to quit smoking.
The sack tax approved last week in a Senate committee would put a 7-cent surcharge on every shopping bag dispensed.
It’s interesting that some lawmakers believe that taxing cigarettes and bags deters folks from smoking or taking a sack at the checkout line, but they don’t acknowledge that taxing property and income discourages people from living and working in Illinois.
Let’s face the facts, Illinois and New Jersey have the highest property taxes in the nation.
During the past several years, I have received hundreds of emails from readers who have either left the state or are planning to do so because of our property taxes.
They read like “Dear John” letters from residents leaving behind family and friends for places with lower taxes.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the number of residents fleeing Illinois for other states jumped to 93,704 in 2014 from 68,204 the previous year. It increased in 2015 to 106,544, and in 2016 to 109,941. More exodus in 2017 of 114,779 and last year, another 114,154.
For more than 15 years, residents have left Illinois at a rate of one person every 10 minutes.
Our neighbors Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin and Kentucky are growing. So, we can’t blame the weather for this diaspora of Illinoisans scattered across the nation.
The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of Illinois lawmakers who for decades have ignored cries for property tax reform. High property taxes are pushing people from Illinois and deterring others from settling here.
Once upon a time, the state’s high property taxes were offset by lower income taxes. But over the past nine years, Illinois’ property taxes have surged upward. And now, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is pushing for amending the state constitution to create a progressive income tax, which would enable tax rates to rise further still.
If this happens, expect the Illinois exodus to accelerate.
Strange how lawmakers will tax things like cigarettes and bags, to discourage people from buying them, but fail to see how taxing homes and income encourages folks to leave.
Note to readers: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter. His email address is ScottReeder1965@gmail.com.