Graduated Tax And The Future Of Byron Plant Are Major Issues In Northern Illinois House Races

Oct 13, 2020

Illinois taxes and the future of nuclear power are major issues in two northern Illinois legislative races. 

These topics were part of the discussion at a recent League of Women Voters virtual forum in DeKalb. The most prominent candidates were those competing in the race for the 70th and 90th Districts of the Illinois House of Representatives.

The 70th  District encompasses parts of DeKalb, Kane and Boone Counties. It’s currently represented by Republican incumbent Jeff Keicher. He’s being challenged by Democrat Paul Stoddard. The stances of these two candidates vary greatly when it comes to the graduated income tax. 

Currently, Illinois has a flat income tax, where residents pays the same percentage regardless of how much money they earn. A proposed constitutional amendment would allow this percentage to scale based on income. Stoddard said the current system is unequal when it comes to total tax burden. 

“It turns out that the lower classes are paying the largest percentage of their income in taxes," he said. "12.4% or so is the estimate I’ve seen. The middle class is about 9.4% and the upper classes are about 7.4%.”

Stoddard supports the amendment as a matter of equity. 

“It gives us the flexibility to start talking about how to adjust our tax structure to be fair to everybody," Stoddard said. "Not just tax the rich, but how can we gain more revenue necessary to cut people’s property taxes.” 

Many local governments rely on high property taxes to finance schools and other local services. Stoddard hopes better state funding can counter this.

Keicher is against the amendment. He criticized the plan as lacking specificity.

“Our governor has introduced a budget that  is $7 billion in the hole," Keicher said. "This plan raises $3.6 billion. We have a shortfall that we haven’t accounted for where that money and revenue is going to come from.” 

He’s also skeptical of how the money would actually be allocated.

"It comes down to legislator trust, and I do not trust the current legislature to spend judiciously with other people's money.”

Meanwhile, in the 90th District, Republican incumbent Tom Demmer is facing a challenge from Democrat Seth Wiggins. This area encompasses parts of DeKalb, Lee, LaSalle and Ogle Counties.  

A major economic issue in this race is the future of the Byron Nuclear Generating Station. The power plant’s parent company, Exelon, announced in August its intention to shut down Byron in the fall of next year. The plant is licensed to operate for at least another 20 years, but Exelon says there are revenue shortfalls.

Demmer and Wiggins both agree that the Byron nuclear plant should remain open, to preserve jobs in the area and as an important source of energy. Demmer explained. 

“I think we need to take advantage of the geographic location we have, the natural resources that are around, and embrace a nuclear, wind, carbon-free future to provide electricity and help fight climate change.” 

Wiggins largely agrees, but said he also wanted to address the economic factors going against nuclear power. He cites an assessment from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“One of the reasons the president of IBEW has set forth as leading to that decision is the non-economical value of nuclear power when compared to fossil fuels.”

In a separate discussion on cutting the state budget, Wiggins suggested cutting state subsidies to coal and other fossil fuels.

So if we can not subsidize those and take less state dollars and re-appropriate them to underserved areas, I think that would be favorable in my opinion.” 

Keicher, Stoddard, Demmer and Wiggins will face off over the seats in their respective districts in the General Election on November 3rd.