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Biss discusses state income tax, pension funding at Evanston town hall

State+Sen.+Daniel+Biss+%28D-Evanston%29+hosted+a+town+hall+meeting+at+the+Evanston+Public+Library+on+Monday.+He+discussed+issues+related+to+income+tax+and+pension+reform.%0A
State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) hosted a town hall meeting at the Evanston Public Library on Monday. He discussed issues related to income tax and pension reform.

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) hosted a town hall meeting at the Evanston Public Library on Monday. He discussed issues related to income tax and pension reform.

Sean Su/The Daily Northwestern

Sean Su/The Daily Northwestern

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) hosted a town hall meeting at the Evanston Public Library on Monday. He discussed issues related to income tax and pension reform.

Paige Leskin, Assistant City Editor

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State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) discussed changing Illinois’ flat-rate income tax to a graduated one in a town hall meeting Monday night.

Biss called the present code “idiosyncratic,” telling a group of around 30 city residents gathered at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave, of his support of a system in which tax rates go up with an individual’s income.

In the upcoming year, the tax is slated to drop from 5 percent to 3.75 percent for all Illinois taxpayers. Biss warned the decrease would cause $2 billion in cuts of discretionary spending, which includes funding for education and public safety.

“It would be pretty significantly devastating,” he said. “The current tax path that we’re on today is a really bad idea.”

Biss said legislatures have to act quickly in order to avoid such cuts. He called for a voter referendum to be submitted to General Assembly by May 1 calling for an amendment to the section of the Illinois Constitution that calls for taxation at a non-graduated rate. 

Residents questioned the complexity of the pension system, which consists of more than 600 separate entities across the state. Several attendees said the high number leads to a lack of visibility and transparency, allowing some, like those who transfer to jobs in different municipalities, to be able to receive revenue from both salary and pension plans. Biss said it was necessary to “consolidate these pension systems,” as they allow for a significant amount of fraud.

He also discussed additional pension system reforms. Illinois property taxes have been used in the past to fund pensions, but are already the second highest among all states.

Under Illinois law, Chicago oversees and contributes to the pension funds of some groups of workers.

Pension plans for public employees have been losing funding, a problem that Biss said was necessary to address and solve immediately.

“To varying degrees, they’re all in trouble,” he said. “Something pretty aggressive has to happen really soon.”

Despite Biss’ position, many at the meeting said they did not blame him for the lack of reform. Biss is currently serving his first term in the Illinois Senate, having been elected to the state House of Representatives in 2011.

Evanston resident Jim Young said he did not think Biss was responsible for the problems facing the states legislature, citing the senator’s willingness to take on significant issues. Young said government should focus on what the state can do to move forward, citing the dissolution of the Evanston township as a “step in the right direction.”

“Illinois has to change the way the government is run and operates,” he said. “It has an incredible potential as a state.”

Despite the amount of work in front of it, Biss said he was optimistic the General Assembly would eventually find solutions.

“We’re on a path that demonstrates all these holes can be dug out of,” he said. “It’s not an intractable amount of sad.”

Email: paigeleskin2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @paigeleskin

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