Passage of the fair tax will improve the lives of the state's LGBTQ community. As CEO of Equality Illinois, the state's civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer Illinoisans, I can attest that a more equitable income tax that funds a more financially sound state government will make our state stronger.
The fair tax will change the state constitution from our current unfair, outdated system that requires everyone to pay the same tax rate regardless of income, to one that allows lower tax rates for people with low and moderate incomes and higher tax rates for those with higher incomes. Under the fair tax,
only those individuals making over $250,000 annually will pay more, while at least 97 percent of Illinoisans will see their taxes go down or stay the same.
Fundamentally, the fair tax is about equity. Twenty-five percent of LGBTQ Illinoisans live in poverty, compared to just 14 percent of straight Illinoisans. More of our poorest LGBTQ peoples' incomes go to survival than the wealthiest Illinoisans. They should not have to pay the same tax rate as Chicago billionaires, but that's exactly what our current tax system allows.
The fair tax is also about protecting our most vulnerable. The legacies of discrimination and stigma have left our community more reliant on a strong social safety net to thrive. Nationally, 22 percent of LGBTQ people rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( SNAP ) compared to 9 percent of non-LGBTQ people. Fourteen percent of trans U.S. residents rely on housing assistance, compared to 4 percent of cisgender U.S. residents. And 22 percent of LGBTQ Midwesterners rely on Medicaid compared to 13 percent of non-LGBTQ Midwesterners. Passing the fair tax can help shore up the services our most vulnerable stakeholders rely on.
Finally, the fair tax is about fiscal responsibility. The poverty and disparities experienced by LGBTQ people have been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, state revenues are also being stretched by the crisis. Without the fair tax, the state budget is facing even deeper cuts to critical programs or greater debts. The fair tax will enable us to take care of our most vulnerable without passing on bigger debts to our children.
Often, I will think of the transgender youth in Carbondale who told me during a listening tour visit that they would travel 300 miles one way just to access affirming healthcare at Howard Brown Health in Chicago. Youth are able to access the full range of trans-affirming health care services through Illinois
Medicaid. But what if, because of the next fiscal crisis and service cuts, Medicaid is no longer financially solvent? How can we look our young people in the eye and tell them we are doing our best when we refuse to take care of them?
It all comes back to this question: How will the lives of Illinoisans, including LGBTQ Illinoisans, be better because of this work? Let's choose to advance justice and equity and live up to the values of Illinois. That's why Equality Illinois is supporting the fair tax. Let's make it a reality in November.
Brian C. Johnson is CEO of Equality Illinois.