Illinois seniors say no to tax on retirement income

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With the governor and legislators back in Springfield for veto session, thousands of Illinoisans ages 50 plus are delivering a strong message to their elected officials: a firm NO to a tax on retirement income to fix the state's ongoing budget crisis.

During a press conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, AARP officials showed over 15,000 signed petitions and immediately delivered them to the offices of Gov. Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin.

"Instituting a state income tax upon retirement income in a piecemeal manner to address Illinois' fiscal mismanagement, financial woes, and political gridlock is unfair to our retirees who worked and saved for decades," said Ryan Gruenenfelder, AARP Illinois manager for Advocacy and Outreach. "Retirees did not put the state in the current fiscal crisis. It is shortsighted to propose to balance the state's economy on the backs of retired individuals."

One year ago, AARP released a survey of individuals ages 50 and older across the state. The survey revealed an overwhelming rejection of a tax on retirement income – with nearly 90 percent opposing it.

With Illinois as the fifth worst state in the nation in terms of tax rates, a tax on retirement income would unfairly put an additional burden on retirees who are already struggling with limited incomes to afford basic necessities, including utility rates.

AARP Illinois' 2015 survey also showed that 92 percent of respondents believed a tax on retirement income would have a negative impact on their household budget; nearly 60 percent would consider moving to another state; nearly 70 percent would be forced to reduce their household spending; and a third would have to return to the workforce. After the survey, AARP mailed petitions to Illinois members asking them to sign on to a clear message to their elected leaders, urging them to oppose efforts to create a tax on retirement income.

"Illinoisans aged 50 plus overwhelmingly reject the idea of a tax on retirement income," Gruenenfelder added. "They know it would have major, detrimental impact on their household budgets, on their ability to care for a loved one, on their ability to prepare for and enjoy a secure retirement, and even on their ability to stay retired."

AARP is urging the governor and the General Assembly to ensure all taxpayers are represented at the negotiating table as the state tries to figure out how to put an end to its recurring fiscal crisis. Illinois needs comprehensive reform proposals, starting with an evaluation of the current revenue system and with a look at measures that foster economic growth, include social and public policy goals, address revenue adequacy to pay for critical services, and generate equity.

"Elected officials need to break the gridlock and look at proposals that aim to make life better for all, including retirees, working families, and low-income households," Gruenenfelder concluded. "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."