New report imagines how Illinois can ‘Fund our Futures’

In a state where economic disparities persist, the call for an inclusive economy has never been more urgent. The recent release of the report, Funding Our Futures: The Equitable Revenue Policies Illinois Families Need to Thrive, sheds light on the shortcomings of Illinois’ revenue system, calling it out for favoring the wealthy while leaving many struggling to meet basic needs.  

The report, by the Funding Our Futures coalition, outlines recommendations to generate over $1.5 billion annually, with a focus on how revenue policies can address systemic inequalities. From health care to housing, these action steps underscore the importance of investing in critical public services that uplift vulnerable populations.

Illinois’ tax system, characterized by regressive tax structures that burden families with low income, perpetuates inequities. The report highlights the consequences of underfunded public services, particularly for marginalized communities, while emphasizing the need for a fairer distribution of wealth. By centering equity and directly involving those with lived experience, the coalition aims to dismantle systemic barriers and pave the way for meaningful change.

The Who Pays? report notes the 10 states with the most unequal tax systems share a heavy reliance on sales and property taxes rather than personal income tax. “Illinois’ tax system is a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to account for the vast economic disparities and unique needs of Illinois families,” said Jeremy Rosen, director of economic justice at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law and a co-editor of the coalition report. “Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to succeed — and maintaining the status quo fails everyone.”

One of the coalition’s primary recommendations is the implementation of a child tax credit — a measure with profound implications for Illinois families, particularly those struggling to make ends meet. By putting cash directly into the pockets of low- and middle-income families, this initiative provides immediate relief and lays the foundation for long-term economic stability. And as Illinois moves to be the 15th state to permanently provide this benefit, we set an example for others to follow.

The report also pushes creating living-wage job opportunities. Unemployment rates among people with conviction records are nearly five times the overall national rate. By advocating for policies that prioritize fair wages and access to stable employment, we can lift individuals and families out of poverty. This includes initiatives like the CTA Second Chance program, but the effort to give people with employment barriers good union-paying jobs has instead kept its participants as some of the lowest-wage earners. The program requires further enhancement to fully help those with criminal records.

By expanding access to comprehensive support services, including job training and reintegration programs, we can ensure that individuals with past involvement in the criminal legal system have meaningful opportunities for employment and economic mobility. Through targeted investments and community partnerships, promises by programs like Second Chance can become reality for all who need it.

To move this work forward, the coalition has used insights, data-driven strategy, and a strong presence in Springfield, Illinois, during 2024’s legislative session. But the key to our advocacy is community power. By engaging with grassroots organizations and amplifying the voices of residents, we can influence policy decisions that prioritize people. “Even a small group of engaged citizens have the power to effect change,” Rosen said. “It’s through this collective action that we can ensure our economic recovery benefits all residents.”

The path to economic justice requires bold action and progressive reform. By fighting for progressive taxation, closing corporate loopholes, and creating living-wage job opportunities, we can build a more equitable future for Illinois. And our state can be a leader that sparks similar movements across the nation so everyone can thrive.

More Information

Our laws and policies must support people by ensuring fair work at a living wage and by providing the income supports families need to be successful.

Fiscal policies should ensure that all communities can thrive.

Systemic inequities and the legacy of structural racism make it harder for low-income people and people of color to achieve financial stability.

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