Evanston aldermen on split votes Monday night passed resolutions opposing a reduction in the state income tax and favoring higher taxes on cell phone users.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who led the push for both resolutions, said that if the state income tax is allowed to fall back from its current “temporary” 5 percent level to 3 percent, it would lead to devastating cuts in state aid to the city as well as a range of other programs.
But Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the resolution would send the wrong message to the legislature.
The lawmakers “got themselves into this mess” by claiming the tax hike only needed to be temporary, and “we shouldn’t be OK with having them go back on their promises.”
Despite that, Wilson said, even the 5 percent tax rate probably won’t be enough to get the state out of its financial woes.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she was concerned that the state tax, because it is applied at a flat rate from relatively low income levels, “hits heavily on low income residents in the city.”
The income tax resolution was approved 6-3, with Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, joining Rainey and Wilson in voting no.
The cell phone resolution calls for increasing the state tax collected from cell phone users that is handed over to municipalities to help fund 911 services from $0.57 to $1.50 a month.
At that level it would match the tax imposed on land line phones nearly two decades ago by referendum.
While the total number of phones in use has increased, the switch to cell phones from landlines has resulted in a decline in the revenue the two taxes produce.
If the legislature were to adopt legislation implementing the resolution, it would increase the Evanston 911 fund’s revenue by 57 percent.
While the landline tax was adopted by local referendum, the resolution does not call for putting the cellphone tax issue to local voters or giving them a chance to revisit the level of the landline tax.
Alderman Fiske said taxes on cell phone service already amount to more than 15 percent of the total bill and that creates a big burden on residents.
Rainey and Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, argued that landline and cell phone users whould pay the same tax.
Wilson said he was concerned that if the state raised the tax rate on cell phones it wouldn’t necessarily share the money with local governments.
The resolution was approved 7-2 with Fiske and Wilson voting against it.