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Hear speaker tell us we’re under-taxed

Evanston’s new state representative holds a community forum Thursday night at which the guest speaker will be from a group that thinks Illinois residents are under-taxed.

Gabel, Hamos and Suffredin (handout photo)

Evanston’s new state representative holds a community forum Thursday night at which the guest speaker will be from a group that thinks Illinois residents are under-taxed.

Gabel, Hamos and Suffredin (handout photo)

State Rep. Robyn Gabel, appointed to her post in April after winning the Democratic primary, is organizing the event at 6:30 p.m. at the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave.

She’ll be joined by her predecessor as state representative, Julie Hamos, who now heads the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, as well as what’s being called "a special guest" from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability to discuss the state pension crisis.

That’s the group that earlier this year issued a report saying Illinois ranks 43rd in the nation in the share of its gross domestic product that it devotes to state general fund spending.

Jim Young, a former member of Evanston’s blue ribbon pension panel, told Evanston Now Tuesday that the group’s conclusion doesn’t seem to make sense.

"When I look at taxes in Illinois — sales taxes, real estate taxes, the income tax and so forth — logically it doesn’t make sense that Illinois is a low-tax state," Young said.

An analysis by the Washington-based Tax Foundation shows that while Illinois ranks in the middle of the pack in state income tax collections per capita, it is one of the highest-cost states in the nation for property taxes, ranking 9th among the states in 2007, and ranked sixth in the nation for sales tax rates last year.

Young says there probably is some need to increase the state’s income tax to deal with its pension crisis, but that he’s adamantly opposed to the rich benefit levels of the current state pension system, and that he sees little evidence of serious efforts to solve the problem in Springfield.

The New York Times this morning reports on one innovative strategy to try to ease a state’s pension crisis. Maine is considering changing the rules so its state workers would be covered by Social Security. Maine is one of nine state that, like Illinois, have chosen to exclude many of its employees from the federal program.

The Times says that the initial cost of the shift would be high, but it would provide benefit portability for employees and a stake in a pension program that, compared to most state funds, is relatively well managed.

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