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Video: Activists Shut Down Board Of Trade To Demand 'LaSalle Street Tax'

By aaroncynic in News on Nov 2, 2015 10:32PM

Hundreds of activists with Moral Monday Illinois, a coalition of faith-based and community groups, shut down entrances to the Board of Trade Monday to demand the state enact a Lasalle Street financial transaction tax.

After a short rally at the Thompson Center, hundreds of demonstrators led by clergy members of various faiths shut down LaSalle Street and marched to the Board of Trade, where dozens blocked the doors by standing in front of, or sometimes sitting down in the middle of, the doors to the building.

“Our message has been very clear, this is a revenue crisis,” said Sue Gries, co-chair of the group Fair Economy Illinois, one of many that participated in the action. “We know our legislators have a choice to increase revenue, to secure the health and the stability of our state and communities, to honor the commitments we’ve made to workers and seniors and those who provide critical services to the most vulnerable.”

More than 40 demonstrators were arrested for blocking the doors, and some had to be carried out of the area by police. Some traders and other workers at the Board of Trade were noticeably agitated by the demonstration, with some banging on the doors, others shouting at the demonstrators, and even one man throwing a handful of change at them. This was the ninth ‘Moral Monday’; demonstration in the city.

The groups say that by enacting a small tax on the buying and selling of assets on the Board of Trade, along with changing the state’s flat tax structure to a graduated one, and closing more corporate loopholes, Illinois’ could make up billions in revenue it’s either lost since the state income tax rate dropped to 3.75 percent at the beginning of this year.

“The big corporations and 1 percent need to begin paying their fair share,” said David Hatch of the People’s Lobby, another group that helped organize the demonstration. “2/3rd’s of corporations in Illinois pay no income taxes, and the Chicago Board of Trade makes billions of dollars on high frequency speculative trading - the same things that crashed the economy - they don’t pay a cent of taxes on that.”

Toby Chow, another member of Fair Economy Illinois, said the tax would almost work like the state’s sales tax, and companies raking in large profits would hardly even notice. “You and I will soon pay 10.25 percent sales tax at the store,” said Chow. “Right now, big banks and corporations buying stocks and futures in Chicago don’t pay a cent. A tiny sales tax amounting to less than .002 percent of the average contract value would scarcely be noticed by the big corporations that will pay it, but it would generate billions of dollars for vital resources that we need in our communities.”

Fair Economy Illinois says a legislative proposal in the House of Representatives submitted by Representative Mary Flowers could raise between $10 and $12 billion a year for the state.

Illinois has been operating without a budget for five months now, as Governor Bruce Rauner and legislators are in a deadlock over proposed “reforms” by the governor, who has all but refused to negotiate until his “Turnaround Agenda” is passed. Meanwhile many state social service agencies and other entities have seen funding dry up as payments go unmade. Even the Illinois State Lottery has had to stop paying winners of prizes worth more than $600.

Several Illinois lawmakers joined the activists outside the Thompson Center to pledge their support for revenue options to fill the state’s gaping budget hole. “This crisis is not new,” Representative Christian Mitchell told the crowd. “The only long term solution to this crisis is making sure we have a tax system that moves from being primarily for the wealthy and those who are well connected to one that prioritizes the middle class.”