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Retirement Income Threatened in Illinois

Six in ten Illinois residents say they would leave the state if a retirement tax is put in place. (Ruby Carter)
Six in ten Illinois residents say they would leave the state if a retirement tax is put in place. (Ruby Carter)
November 15, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Now that the election is over, Illinois lawmakers are expected to shift their focus back to the huge budget deficit that's been plaguing the state. The topic could be on the agenda for this month's veto session, and may also be an issue during the lame-duck session which starts in January. That's drawn the attention of advocates for Illinois residents who are near, or at retirement age.

The AARP Illinois Manager of Advocacy and Outreach, Ryan Gruenenfelder, said some lawmakers and special interest groups have proposed putting a tax on retirement income as a way to solve the $8-billion deficit. He said a recent poll by AARP showed overwhelming opposition to that idea.

"Nearly nine in 10 of those 50-plus opposed a proposal to tax retirement income," he said. "Sixty percent of them said they would consider moving to another state if Illinois starts taxing retirement income."

Almost all of those polled said they consider a lack of cooperation among Illinois elected officials as the reason there's been no fix to the state's budgetary woes. About two-thirds said state and local taxes are already too high.

Gruenenfelder said many retirees rely solely on Social Security, or have a small pension or 401(k) savings. There are also those who are having to care for loved ones, including raising their grandchildren, and are struggling to pay for food, housing and doctor visits.

"Medical costs are higher for retirees than for most other groups because they are the age that they are and they tend to have more medical concerns," he explained. "Other issues are, many of them are living on a fixed income and they have a limited ability to rejoin the workforce."

Gruenenfelder suggested people let their elected officials know if they agree that retirees shouldn't have to be the ones to solve the state's budget mess.

He urged a comprehensive solution to the Illinois crisis, and said it's very disconcerting that lawmakers aren't talking about the issue.

"We wonder if the legislative leaders are meeting behind closed doors and coming up with a plan that the general public does not know about," he added. "We do not want a budget proposal to end up on the legislative floor without the voices of Illinoisans."

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL