The Democratic candidate for the 88th Illinois House district said Thursday she believes a progressive income tax is the fairest approach to taxation.
Jill Blair was met with applause from an audience in the Wayman AME Church in Bloomington during a forum hosted by the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans. Blair said Illinois should follow the example of neighboring states.
"The idea of a progressive income tax has been sold by Republicans on the other side of the aisle as a tax increase when that's not really what it is at all for most Illinoisans, and for most Americans," she said.
Also participating in Thursday's forum was state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and his Democratic challenger in the 105th District, Ben Webb. The 88th District incumbent, Rep. Keith Sommer from Morton, was invited but did not attend.
A progressive tax would allow the state to set different tax rates for different incomes, as opposed to the current flat tax rate.
"This progressive tax is going to provide an ongoing, developing revenue stream. One that can make sure that those at the top are paying for a public good that sometimes they choose to use," said Webb.
Brady said he would oppose a bill that created progressive tax reform. He said Springfield needs to get its budgeting in order before bringing in new revenue.
Brady also said social service agencies haven't been prioritized in Springfield for a long time. He said there are constraints in funding when Springfield doesn't have a balanced budget.
"People, especially from a Medicaid side of things, outlive their assets. If you're in a long-term care facility, you cannot be a private payee and you put more pressure on our Medicaid budget in the state of Illinois," he said.
Audience members called on Brady, Blair and Webb on how retirees and their families will receive state assistance for long-term home care. Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans member Lura Ramsey asked Blair how she would improve the Community Care Program for seniors and those who care for them.
Blair said she would support SB 3511, which guarantees a living wage for home care health workers. She said $11 an hour for someone caring for another person's loved ones is inexcusable. Brady followed up by asking where the money for higher wages would come from.
Brady, Webb and Blair all said they would oppose legislation that would take away promised pension payments to retirees.
The Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans says the population of Illinoisians over the age of 65 will grow by a third, to 2.5 million people, by 2025.
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