The candidates vying to represent the 81st state House District know their constituents — and the state’s budget — have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

In the face of economic hardship, freshman incumbent Anne Stava-Murray, a Naperville Democrat, said she believes implementing a graduated income tax in Illinois could be beneficial, particularly for the middle class. But Republican challenger Laura Hois of Downers Grove fears taxing the state’s wealthiest residents at a higher rate could lead to unintended consequences.

Tackling the state’s financial woes is a priority for Stava-Murray, who stressed a need for more programs that would help struggling businesses and families rebound from the pandemic. Fighting climate change and maintaining the momentum of the civil rights movement are among her other reasons for seeking reelection in the district that covers parts of Naperville, Woodridge, Downers Grove, Lisle, Bolingbrook, Westmont and Darien.

“There’s a lot of work left to be done,” she said.

If elected, Hois said her primary goal would be to enact reforms that address the state’s budget deficit, unfunded pension liabilities and a “tax-and-spend cycle … that’s placing us further into debt.”

Getting “back on track financially” could help end the out-migration of Illinois residents, Hois said, a key concern expressed to her on the campaign trail.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s graduated income tax plan could make matters worse, she said, cautioning residents to be wary of a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot that would remove a flat tax rate on income, currently at 4.95%.

Under the progressive tax structure touted by the governor, rates would be maintained or slightly reduced for a majority of Illinois residents, easing the burden on many District 81 residents, Stava-Murray said.

For those making over $250,000, the tax rate would jump to at least 7.75%, potentially pushing the state’s wealthiest residents — including business owners and job creators — out the door, Hois said. Without a constitutionally protected flat tax, she said, lawmakers would then have the power to adjust the income thresholds and place the tax burden “entirely on the middle class.”

“I don’t think Illinois can afford to take that type of a hit,” she said. “In order to bring about solutions to the major financial issues we face … we shouldn’t continue to kick the can down the road.”

If the proposed amendment fails, however, Stava-Murray said she fears the state would impose a flat tax hike that affects all residents.

“That’ll hit in the worst kind of way amid this recession,” she said, adding that she would not support such a measure.

Under the progressive tax plan, the mechanism by which the legislature votes on taxes won’t change, she said. She and her colleagues will still be responsible for passing responsible tax policies that represent the interest of their constituents.

When it comes to residents in the higher-income brackets, Stava-Murray said she believes the societal ties and success they’ve found in Illinois will be enough to keep them here.

“I think that some of that threatening to leave is a little bit bullying of the rest of the 95% who will see a better return on their taxes,” she said.

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October 16, 2020 at 05:59AM