Religious & Faith Leaders Urge Springfield to Act Now on a Fair Tax; With Illinois Fiscal Cliff Looming, Fair Tax Passage Billed as “Moral Imperative”
With under 70 days until deadline to pass the Fair Tax Act, more than 100 religious & faith leaders called for swift action to prevent inhumane cuts to education, healthcare, and vital human services that support low-income and working families, and reduce the spread of poverty.
(Video of homecare provider Annette Jones available at: http://youtu.be/m9oxRM7uJR4)
Chicago, IL – During an interfaith prayer vigil that took place downtown at the Chicago Temple earlier today, an enthusiastic crowd of more than 100 religious and faith leaders sung “We Are Marching in the Light of God,” as they signed pledges to work to enact a Fair Tax, with lower rates for lower incomes and higher rates for higher incomes. With Illinois facing an historic budget crisis in just 70 days, they called on politicians in Springfield to immediately pass the Fair Tax Act.
“Today we are confronted with what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the ‘fierce urgency of now.’ Dr. King told us there is such a thing as too late. We therefore must join together and move Springfield to pass the Fair Tax Act immediately,” said Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III of Trinity United Church of Christ. “We must march until our elected representatives enact a Fair Tax and a budget that truly serves all of God’s children, not just the very rich and powerful.”
Annette Jones, a homecare provider from the Chesterfield neighborhood in Chicago who cares for her elderly aunt, attended today’s event and said a Fair Tax can’t come fast enough for people like her and her aunt. Annette routinely dips into her own pocket to pay for everyday necessities for her aunt Mildred, so Mildred can afford her medications. Annette, who worships at Love and Spirit Missionary Baptist Church, believes Springfield’s budget and tax policies are backward.
“I’m quite upset that Springfield is looking out for the rich, while neglecting the needs of Illinois’ communities. Our tax money has been going to make big corporations richer when it should have been going to help us all and all our communities that need it,” said Jones. “We don’t have enough good jobs, we don’t have enough money for health care, and we don’t have enough money in our pockets, all we have in our pockets are holes…A Fair Tax cannot come fast or soon enough for us.”
A Fair Tax would not only fund needs in my community, it would also give all of us a tax cut, which I would use to help my 90-year old aunt and ensure I’m able to put food on the table. That’s why I’ll keep working and praying for a Fair Tax.”
Religious and faith leaders warned that with rising income inequality and poverty in Illinois, poor and middle class families can no longer endure the status quo tax and budgeting priorities in Springfield. They sharply criticized tax policies in Illinois in which lower and middle-income families pay a tax rate that is more than double the rate paid by the very rich, factoring all state and local taxes paid.
"Illinois' flat tax is the flat earth of public policy,” said Rev. Philip Blackwell of the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple.
Faith leaders warned that Illinois’ pending budget collapse will bring irreparable harm to Illinois’ most vulnerable communities – including children, seniors, and the poor – and impose intense suffering for years to come. News reports indicate Illinois’ budget collapse will force cuts to vital public investments of 27% across-the-board. The magnitude and human cost of such draconian cuts would be unlike anything ever seen in this state.
“Springfield has the moral obligation to end its unjust tax & economic policies that stifle Illinois’ poor and middle class families and to work to prevent the looming budget collapse that will devastate our most vulnerable citizens,” said Rev. Jason Coulter of Ravenswood United Church of Christ. “The first step is to enact the Fair Tax Act.”
“God’s awesomeness is rooted in God’s fairness. A God who shows no favor and who takes no bribe, God champions the cause of the depressed and the downtrodden,” said Rabbi David Russo of Anshe Emet Synagogue. “Today we are gathering to uphold this very biblical precept – that so long as any person in our community is without food, without clothing, without schooling, without housing, without safety, without security, then none of us are truly free.”
Illinois lawmakers are currently prohibited— constitutionally barred—from enacting a Fair Tax, with lower tax rates for lower incomes and higher rates for higher incomes. The Fair Tax Act would give Illinois voters the opportunity this November to eliminate this antiquated provision to allow tax rates based on one’s ability to pay.
“It’s simply preposterous that we in Illinois are prevented from taxing millionaires at a higher rate than minimum wage workers if that’s what the citizens decide is best. A Fair Tax isn’t just common sense, it’s a matter of social justice,” said Rev. Liz Munoz of St. James Episcopal Cathedral.
The broad and diverse coalition of faith leaders supporting a Fair Tax Tuesday included representatives from Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, United Church of Christ, Muslim, and Jewish teachings. More than 225 faith leaders from across the state have joined the coalition so far.
Despite a state budget situation that participants described as dire, the event was filled with determination and optimism.
“The injustice built into our current tax system has remained a burden on the poor and middle class for too many years, and this is the jubilee year! The year we will correct the injustice and finally see a Fair Tax in Illinois,” said Rev. CJ Hawking, Executive Director of Arise Chicago.
A Better Illinois is a coalition of civic and community organizations, small business, labor and faith leaders, educators, service providers, and tens of thousands of ordinary taxpayers seeking to modernize Illinois tax structure to create greater fairness and long-term economic growth.
For more information, visit: http://www.abetterillinois.org/resources/faith-leaders