Thursday, April 27, 2017 12:18 am
Letters to the Editor 4/27/17
MASTER PLAN FOR TREES
As Arbor Day approaches, it is sad to see Springfield having lost so many of its trees to storm damage and disease over the last few years. The downtown, neighborhoods and parks have all been affected by the loss. It’s difficult to walk a couple of blocks in the city without encountering tree stumps and empty places where trees recently stood. Hundreds of trees have been cut down or fallen down.
Everyone loves flowering trees in the spring and their autumnal display. Not only a thing of beauty; trees play a role in environmental and economic prosperity. They mitigate climate change, provide habitat for animals, reduce flooding and improve air quality. Trees serve as living public utilities; 100 mature trees catch 371,000 gallons of rain water per year – water that would otherwise flood sewers and basements. Homeowners and businesses reap economic benefits from trees. Every dollar spent on trees reaps a five-fold return. Annual cooling costs are reduced 10 percent by shaded buildings and sidewalks. Heating costs are reduced 10 percent by tempered winds. Flow to waste treatment plants is diminished. Trees are also great for business. Studies show that shoppers prefer tree-lined commercial districts and linger longer. Customers spend 12 percent more from businesses in settings with trees. Home values rise 7-10 percent with trees.
It’s time for the city to develop a master plan for tree planting and maintenance. The business community, homeowners, places of worship, the school district and park district also have roles to play in supporting Springfield trees. Remember, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second best time is today.
PROGRESSIVE INCOME TAX
Rich Miller oversimplifies the case against making Illinois’ personal income tax progressive (“Our dishonest debates,” April 13). He correctly states that the state constitution requires a flat tax, but then incorrectly states that we should forget about making the tax progressive. The very next clause in the Illinois constitution permits the state tax code to take advantage of federal-style exemptions, of which it currently does very little. A single taxpayer with no children or any of the other few bases for exemption available gets a personal exemption (for 2016) of $2,175 (the equivalent federal exemption is $10,350). That means that someone earning minimum wage pays the same rate of tax on his 2,176th dollar earned as a millionaire does on his 1,000,001st.
Miller appears to have forgotten that back in 2011, when the income tax was raised from 3 percent to 5 percent, there were three competing bills to do so. Gov. Quinn’s plan and the Senate bill both included substantial increases in the personal exemption, in one case as high as $12,000, while the House bill contained no increase whatsoever. Guess which bill eventually was signed into law? The House bill. If serious minds in the legislature wished to make the income tax progressive short of a constitutional amendment, they could model a regime of exemptions on those in the federal tax code that benefit mostly lower-income taxpayers, and produce a state income tax far more progressive than what we have today while they work to eliminate that moronic flat-tax requirement in the Constitution.
It is embarrassing that one of the wealthiest states in the country can’t pay its bills because its tax code is held hostage to a constitutional provision catering to the wealthy. Congratulations to J. B. Pritzker for being a billionaire who at least recognizes how ridiculous that situation is.