With its post-COVID economic agenda struggling in Congress, the Biden White House today called in some local reinforcements, teaming Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker with a top federal official to pitch the president’s tax and spending plans.
In a Zoom call with regional reporters, Pritzker asserted that Biden’s plan to expand child care nationally in the same way Pritzker has in Illinois is crucial to a full recovery from COVID, and he argued that Biden’s plan to boost taxes on the wealthy and large corporations is the correct way to pay for it.
“The president is doing the right thing,” Pritzker said as David Kamin, deputy director of the president’s National Economic Council, listened in. “We’ve got to pay the bills from the recovery. The best way to do that is to tax those who can most afford it.”
That argument is very similar to the one Illinois voters rejected last year when they said no to Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax amendment, which the governor dubbed the “fair tax.”
Asked today if he wasn’t asking a Democratic Congress to take the kind of step Illinois voters were unwilling to make, Pritzker replied that he still believes the tax code needs to be made more fair.
“Congress is trying to go at it in a slightly different way” than he did, Pritzker said. “I’m glad the federal government went after this.”
The child care expansion Pritzker promoted in Illinois indeed is large. So far, mostly using federal COVID relief funds, the state has targeted $870 million for such efforts, with job seekers given three months of free child care, workers given a $1,000 bonus each, and $300 million awarded to child-care and early-education providers.
Of all the investments being made after COVID, this one has the highest potential return, Pritzker said. Lack of child care “is holding back our recovery.” The workers who depend on such services so they can hold down a job “are carrying the rest of us on their backs,” Pritzker said.
But while such programs are popular in Congress, they are part of a larger spending initiative that so far has failed to unify Democrats or attract any Republicans. And how to pay for it remains a hot topic of debate.
Biden’s plans feature raising the top corporate income-tax rate from 21% to 26.5% and expanding taxes on corporate foreign income. That would raise an estimated $1 trillion. Tax rates also would rise on wealthy people though not families earning less than $400,000, according to the White House.
But it appears that even some profitable companies would still continue to pay no income tax under Biden’s plan. That’s because it would retain credits for certain investments and research and development, even expanding credits for investments in clean energy and low-income housing.
Kamin said the Build Back Better agenda is just what America needs. “We have a fundamental choice as to how to rebuild our economy.”
The White House has not provided a list of Illinois companies that have paid no taxes, citing federal confidentiality rules.