Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Corporate tax breaks is reason the Legislature is bothering to come back

There has been a lot of speculation about whether the General Assembly will manage to give its approval to a casino expansion measure that Gov. Pat Quinn will be to sign into law.

There also are other measures desired by various interests, all of which will get a chance to come to life when the Illinois Legislature convenes again on Tuesday for yet another day of its fall veto session.

YET NONE OF this would have been possible, except for a bill that would appear to go to the very heart of what all these Occupy Chicago/Wall Street/wherever types claim is wrong with our society today.

For the reason that our Legislature felt compelled to add another day to the fall veto session (which was scheduled to end a couple of weeks ago) was a measure related to tax breaks for business interests.

The Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange have claimed they are overtaxed, and that they want changes in state laws that will reduce the amount of money they would have to pay for doing business in Illinois. They also have threatened to leave our wonderful city – using the claim that modern technology no longer requires them to physically be IN Chicago in order to do their global trade.

THAT is the reason we’re coming back today. The fact that a whole lot of other issues will also get a chance to gain approval is just a secondary benefit.

NOT EVEN THE idea of casino expansion would have been enough to bring the General Assembly back to Springfield prior to their next official dates of business in January.

So if you are of the type who seriously wants to have more gambling opportunities across Illinois, you should be thankful for the Board of Trade and Mercantile Exchange. Otherwise, you’d be waiting until next spring for any more consideration.

Of course, that’s assuming that anyone has changed their stance on gambling. For all I know, nothing may happen on Tuesday regarding casinos, and we could still be addressing this issue come spring.

So what should we think of this measure meant to benefit those agricultural commodities traders?

ACTUALLY, IT AMUSES me that whenever I hear legislators talk about this issue, they describe it in different terms. For state lawmakers used this same bill to also add in some changes in tax law that relate to Sears Holding Inc. – which has threatened to move its corporate headquarters from the northwest suburbs to some other state if they don’t get tax breaks.

Legislators talk about this bill as the “Sears tax break.” They say they’re just trying to be business-friendly to a corporation that has more than a century of history in our state.

It just sounds better to say “I’m helping Sears” than it does to say “I’m helping the Board of Trade.” The latter really reeks of confirming the suspicions of activists these days that our government officials are only interested in helping the 1 percent of wealthy corporate interests – while maybe the 99 percent of the rest of us shop at Sears.

I suspect if they really wanted to reflect the modern-day consumer, they’d offer up some sort of aid to Target and Wal-mart (where many of us are more likely to shop).

ANYWAY, THIS BILL will be the one that comes up Tuesday in the Illinois House of Representatives and the state Senate. As it was, an Illinois House committee gave the measure its recommendation during a hearing held Monday.

The General Assembly will be asked to provide tax breaks of up to $250 million – with about 40 percent of that going to the Mercantile Exchange, the Board of Trade and Sears.

To try to appease those Occupy protesters (and the regular people who sympathize with them), there also will be $100 million in tax breaks for smaller companies, and another $50 million to cover the cost of expanding the earned-income tax credit for the working “poor.”

In short, we’re seeing that our state does have a sense of being willing to offer aid to corporate interests – despite the claims of certain states with their “Illinoyed” marketing campaign that is trying to draw businesses out of our state and away to theirs.

PERHAPS OUR STATE just has a sense that the interests of corporate and personal interests need to be balanced off – while others (including our neighbor to the east – Indiana) are too willing to play partisan politics (such as persisting with legislation to turn themselves into a “right to work” state) with the issue.

This is the reason our Legislature is back in session. We feel the need to give business interests some aid – even though school officials in the area surrounding the Hoffman Estates corporate headquarters for Sears claim they will lose significant amounts of tax revenue they were receiving from having the retail company in their community.

Even if the Legislature manages to leave town without expanding casino gambling, there likely will be plenty of action that will manage to tick people off -- even though a part of you should be greatful that this issue enabled the Legislature to return to the Statehouse this week to consider your pet cause.


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