It’s time for a fair income tax in Illinois.

The current flat tax written into the 1970 Illinois constitution ties our state’s hands from recapturing some of the incredible wealth amassed by those at the top over the last several decades.

It’s not that there isn’t enough money to adequately fund our schools and roads and start solving our state’s fiscal woes. It’s that that our current flat tax structure combined with gross economic inequality allows the super-rich to keep getting richer while the rest of us keep falling behind. In fact, those at the low end of the income scale currently pay almost twice as much in state and local taxes, as a percentage of income, as those at the top.*

As someone who believes in fairness and equity, I think it’s only right that those who benefit the most, pay the most.

Current proposals would cut or freeze taxes for 97% of us, while raising tax rates on only the top 3%. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that a fair tax would raise taxes on the middle class.

Illinois is one of the only states in the country with a flat tax written into its constitution. It’s time for our state legislators to get out of the way and allow we the people to vote on a constitutional amendment to remove the flat tax straitjacket. Let’s call on our state legislators to vote for the Fair Tax amendment (SJRCA 1) which would do just that!

* https://itep.org/wp-content/uploads/whopays-ITEP-2018.pdf

UUANI BOARD
January 2019 Update

Together, UUANI – you, you and I – won some significant legislative successes last year. Hundreds of us sent thousands of emails to dozens of our legislators – and we visited many in person as well – and it made a difference. Following the lead of our statewide partners, we helped pass bills providing alternatives to incarceration and removing barriers to employment after incarceration; bills prohibiting Muslim or immigrant registries and protecting undocumented victims of domestic violence, human trafficking or sexual assault; state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment; and most recently, a bill combatting illegal gun trafficking – all efforts affirming the worth and dignity of each person and our common interdependence.

We also piloted our first Voting Our Values campaign, promoting our 5th UU principle affirming the democratic process. Of the nine congregations around the state that encouraged members and others to register and vote, three were in Illinois’ 6th Congressional district, which elected a representative far more reflective of our UU values than his predecessor. Of course we didn’t do that by ourselves, but we did our part.

We’ll be rolling out our 2019 agenda on Valentine’s Day – since, as Cornel West says, justice is what love looks like in public. This will include legislative initiatives, again following the lead of our partners, in our four key areas: economic justice, racial justice, environmental justice, and immigrant justice. Look for an email on February 14 with ways for you to get involved and support our shared work towards justice, beloved community and a healthy planet this year. We’ll have a special statewide conference call on February 28 for you to learn more and share your ideas.

We are also organizing or supporting a number of upcoming gatherings around the state this spring (see below) – from Green Team and Cluster gatherings in northern Illinois to our Statewide UU Justice Gathering in Alton right before Regional Assembly in St Louis. We will also be mobilizing for advocacy days at the Capitol in Springfield in March and May.

But the core of our work continues to be strengthening UU congregations and powering UU participation in the larger movement for justice. Towards that end, I’ve been doing workshops around the state for several years. What I’ve found is that there’s lots of interest and energy out there, but it takes sustained leadership to organize that energy into cohesive and sustainable efforts.

That’s why we’re launching the UUANI Social Justice Leadership Corps, a six-month program to develop teams to lead these efforts in our congregations, as well as collectively across the state. We plan to launch our first cohort in February, a second cohort late next summer, and a third next winter. Please let us know if you are interested. 

Admin
October 2018 Update

Over 170 of you from 20 UU congregations participated in UUANI gatherings around the state this year – in Palatine, Springfield, and Mt Vernon. We followed up with a number of you, and heard that many of you would like to gather more often: to get to know each other better, to learn from each other, and to explore ways of collaborating. So we are organizing cluster gatherings in the Rockford and Chicago areas early next year, and a statewide gathering in Alton on April 5 (before the start of Regional Assembly in St Louis). Please contact us at uuani@uuani.org if you’re interested in helping plan these or other events.

Another thing we heard is that our Actions of the Week are helpful, and that you appreciate hearing what results they’re producing. Over the past two years, nearly 1000 UUs across the state have sent messages to our elected officials to advocate for our UU values. For one of our recent actions, we joined the UUA, UUSC and UUs around the country in opposing increases to the federal budget for immigrant detention and deportation. In Illinois we sent 249 messages to 19 members of Congress (almost the entire IL delegation), and at least one of our congregations made calls as well. UUSC reported back to us:

“This advocacy is having an impact. Because people are speaking out against the proposed budget increase for detention and deportation, the DHS appropriations bill as drafted was not approved. Instead, DHS is currently among the agencies being funded on a temporary Continuing Resolution through December 7. When the full DHS appropriations bill comes back up for approval in early December, we will need to continue to demand no new funding for detention and deportation.”

In Illinois this year, you helped pass two criminal justice reform bills, a prohibition against registries of immigrants and Muslims, and state ratification of the ERA.

On the other hand, several other bills were either vetoed by the Governor or stalled in the legislature, and we all know the difficulties we face generally in Congress. So we are continuing to focus on the upcoming elections. UUs from 23 congregations have publicly pledged to vote our values, and at least ten congregations are doing some form of a Voting Our Values campaign. We heard this from the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale:

“We were surprisingly busy. We had several questions about voting locations, two people changed their addresses, and one young adult registered to vote for the first time!”

If you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s a voter guide from the League of Women Voters.

Meanwhile, several congregations are participating in the “Listen, Lead, Share” environmental listening campaign of the Illinois Climate Table, of which UUANI is a member. These community conversations, in each legislative district in the state, are gathering local input into how we can create green jobs and foster economic development as we transition to a 100% renewable energy economy in Illinois. We expect this to lead to a major legislative advocacy campaign starting next year.

Finally, UUANI is launching a program to create a Social Justice Leadership Corps, with teams from congregations around the state participating in a six-month program to develop our capacity for spiritually grounded and strategically effective action. Please contact us at uuani@uuani.org if you are interested or would like to nominate someone.

UUANI BOARD
UUANI 2018 Campaigns

UUANI is gearing up for a spring of putting our UU values into powerful action under the banner of the new Poor Peoples Campaign! Led by Rev. Dr. William Barber, this campaign is reviving the original Poor Peoples Campaign started by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King 50 years ago. Echoing and expanding on Dr. King’s naming of the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism, the campaign provides a national values-rooted framework for state-based fusion organizing. Building on this framework, we are working with our statewide partners in Illinois for:

  • Economic Justice: With wealth overwhelmingly concentrated at the top, we seek economic justice, equity and compassion through a Fair Tax, providing for the common welfare of all based on ability to pay.
     
  • Restorative Justice: With thousands of citizens returning from incarceration each year, we seek to Restore Rights and Opportunities for returning citizens, affirming the inherent worth and dignity of each person.
     
  • Environmental Justice: With ongoing objectification, exploitation, and violence against people and the planet, we are Ready for 100% renewable energy, affirming our respect for the interdependent web of existence.

Our first big action will be on February 14—the date of the Governor’s budget address—delivering Valentines to our legislators (either online or at the Capitol) calling on them to “have a heart” by passing a Fair Tax and a fully funded state budget. Additional Fair Tax actions will take place in Chicago on March 27, and at local post offices April 14-17 (around tax day).

Springfield advocacy days will be on April 17 (for Fair Tax and restorative justice issues) and April 26 (for environmental issues). We can also support you in meeting with your legislator at their local office.

The high point of the Poor Peoples Campaign will be 40 days of action from May 13 to June 21, with 1000 people in Springfield and each of 30 state capitols—30,000 people across the country—engaging in civil disobedience, with opportunities to support without being arrested.

All these efforts will lead into actions to engage our neighbors in the November elections, which are not just political contests but expressions of the values we are collectively choosing.

Finally, there will be opportunities for networking, support and preparation for these actions at two UU Justice Events co-sponsored by UUANI in collaboration with the UU Prison Ministry of IL and the Youth & Young Adult Visioning Team:

We don’t expect everyone to participate in everything, but we hope you can find at least one way to participate in this season of action for justice, beloved community and a healthy planet. Please let us know what calls to you by filling out this form or by replying to this email.

Peace and Power,

Scott

UUANI BOARD
November 2017: Accomplishments recognized, actions to organize!

For the past few years, UUANI has focused mostly on the first part of our mission: strengthening UU congregations through faith-rooted relational organizing – building a base for powerful collective action.  This year, we are starting to pivot toward the other two parts of our mission: connecting UUs with each other and with partner organizations, and mobilizing to put our values into effective action together.

Our Actions of the Week are one way we have begun mobilizing our network. So far this year, almost 700 UUs have sent over 5600 messages to state and federal officials in support of policies reflecting our values. Here are some successful campaigns we helped win this past year:

  • Passing a state budget funding more compassionate and competent government through targeted advocacy by congregations with legislators in key districts around the state (in partnership with the Responsible Budget Coalition).

  • Passing a bill expanding worth and dignity for citizens returning from incarceration by dramatically expanding eligibility to have their records sealed (in partnership with Community Renewal Society and the UU Prison Ministry of IL).

  • Passing a bill respecting the interdependent web of existence through one of the strongest clean energy bills in the country (in partnership with the Illinois Climate Table).

  • Passing a bill expanding worth and dignity for people who are transgender by allowing them to correct their birth records to reflect their gender identity (following the lead of Equality Illinois).

  • Passing a bill promoting welcoming communities with liberty and justice for all by limiting local police involvement in federal immigration enforcement through the Illinois TRUST Act (in partnership with Protected by Faith and other organizations).

We look forward to hosting local gatherings in several parts of the state this spring, where we will roll out our current campaigns:

  • Economic Justice: Fair Tax (with the Responsible Budget Coalition) – for a more equitable state income tax in Illinois. UUANI is well placed to move this issue as there are UU congregations in or near all 10 districts whose representatives voted across party lines to override the governor’s veto and pass the state budget.

  • Restorative Justice: Love Resists (a joint campaign of the UUA, UUSC, the UU College of Social Justice, and the Coalition of UU State Action Networks, along with local partners) – to end cash bail, limit solitary confinement, ban the box in higher education, and do voter engagement (deep canvassing).

  • Environmental Justice: Ready for 100% (with Illinois Climate Table) – a voter engagement campaign promoting 100% renewable energy.

  • Intersectional: Poor Peoples Campaign (with Rev Barber) – a public witness campaign lifting up moral values in the political process.

Early next year, we plan to send out an action kit to each UU congregation offering ways to get involved in these campaigns, as well as resources for small groups or committees to reflect on their social justice work.

These continue to be difficult times. But there is much we can do when we organize ourselves and come together with others to put the strength of our values into the public sphere. To paraphrase Wayne Arneson’s blessing:                

Take courage, friends.

The way is often hard, the path is never clear,

and the stakes are very high.

Take courage.

For deep down, there is another truth:  

We are not alone.

 

 

UUANI BOARD