Illinois seniors to state: Leave our money alone

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AARP Illinois is letting state legislators know what the state’s seniors think about the ongoing budget mess and a potential tax on retirement income to help fix the state’s fiscal crisis.

Ensuring the voice of Illinois taxpayers is heard loud and clear by elected officials, AARP Illinois delivered to every member of the Illinois General Assembly and several members of the State's Executive Branch, including Governor Bruce Rauner, a survey of residents ages 50-plus expressing strong concerns about those matters, the organization said in a news release Tuesday.

The survey, conducted and released to the public in December 2015, has been delivered to legislators in both chambers of the General Assembly, Gov. Rauner, Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, Comptroller Leslie Munger, and Treasurer Michael Frerichs. Included was an executive summary and a letter from AARP Illinois leadership urging that the voices of all Illinois taxpayers be included and all options put on the table in order to design solutions to fix the state's recurring budget crisis.

"Illinois needs comprehensive reform proposals on the table, starting with an evaluation of a revenue system that aims to make life better for all, including retirees, working families, and low-income households," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois state director. "We need a comprehensive look at all taxes paid by Illinois residents and businesses, and an equitable tax reform approach to raise revenue, rather than a piecemeal approach shouldered by Illinois retirees."

AARP Illinois' 2015 survey of 1,000 state residents ages 50 and older shows the unequivocal concerns of taxpayers regarding the state's current fiscal crisis, the divisiveness among Illinois' elected officials, and the impact that new taxes, particularly taxes on retirement income, could have on individuals and households.

The rising cost of essential necessities, including groceries, utilities, and health care, combined with the increasing fiscal burden created through higher taxes, are growing concerns for millions of Illinoisans, especially for older and retired Illinoisans living on fixed incomes, the survey found.

As countless Illinois households struggle to make ends meet, an overwhelming majority of Illinoisans aged 50-plus strongly oppose the prospect of a new tax on retirement income to fix the state's ongoing budget crisis. Over 87 percent of Illinoisans considered a lack of cooperation among Illinois elected officials as a major problem preventing a fix to the state's budgetary woes.

Moreover, over two-thirds of Illinoisans viewed the amount of state and local taxes residents have to pay as a major problem.

The potential taxation of retirement income, in particular, faced strong opposition: 

AARP, on behalf of its 1.7 million Illinois members and all individuals aged 50-plus and their families, has expressed its support for House Resolution 890 and Senate Resolution 1325, which oppose efforts to create a new tax on retirement income.

"We believe this survey sends a clear message to the Legislature and the Governor that taxpayers need to be at the table as the State tries to figure out how to put an end to its recurring fiscal crisis," Gallo added.

A copy of the survey and its executive summary can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/1Qfmfc7