Saturday, December 10, 2011

Capitol conniving takes place on both sides of the politically partisan aisle

Words such as “done deal’ are being used to describe the fact that the Illinois General Assembly will return to the Statehouse in Springfield ONE MORE TIME this year to try to pass a deal meant to bring an end to speculation that entities such as the Chicago Board of Trade and Sears will leave Illinois.

There may be a deal on corporate tax breaks for Sears and the commodities exchanges, but the trust level of legislators these days is about as gloomy as this century-old postcard image of the Illinois Statehouse.

Then again, in Springpatch Speak (that unique brand of double-talk used by state politicos), “done deal” merely means they’re going to try again – with everybody convinced that someone else will try to do the political equivalent of sticking a shiv in their spine.

I PHRASE IT so crudely because the mentality that goes into such strategy is blunt.

We have leaders for both Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature claiming to have a deal on the proposed corporate tax breaks, one negotiated in good faith and meant to bolster our state’s business climate – while also offering some aid to those of us who aren’t CEO’s of major corporations.

Yet the plotting of this event, which will begin when the Illinois House of Representatives returns to Springfield on Monday and could end with the state Senate doing their thing on Tuesday, makes it clear that nobody really trusts anybody else.

For the record, the legislators will be asked once again to vote on the concept of changing the way transactions taxes are figured for the Board of Trade and Mercantile Exchange.

BOTH CLAIM THEY are being extremely overtaxed (although many corporate types often give off the impression that they view ANY tax as over-tax).

There also is a tax credit being extended for another decade for Sears Holding Co., which could save that corporation about $15 million per year, and now legislators are being asked to consider a tax credit for Southern Illinois-based Champion Laboratories, Inc.

Which plays right into the hands of all those “Occupy Chicago” activist types who claim that the problem with our government is that it is too eager to benefit business at the expense of real people (a.k.a., the 99 percent).

The Illinois Senate had previously approved a version of this bill that also included an expansion of the earned income tax credit (from 5 percent to 10 percent) that could reduce the tax bills for low-income families.

BUT THE ILLINOIS House had rejected that notion (with its “infamous” 8-99 vote), claiming that the state can’t afford to lose the roughly $110 million such a tax break would cost to provide. And yes, it was the Republican caucus that instigated this particular opposition – although many Democrats also voted against the idea, largely because they seemed confused last week about what it was they were doing.

Which is why political people have now split this up into multiple bills that will require several votes to complete, and will probably take hours upon end to achieve a goal that many legislators seem to desire.

Yes, it will be staged so that the first “vote’ taken will be on the earned income tax credit expansion. The assorted tax breaks for business interests will come afterward, BUT ONLY if the tax credit for low-income families comes first.

If the earned income tax credit expansion fails in the Illinois House, then the tax breaks will never come up for a vote this year (which could backfire because Sears, at least, says it wants to know by year’s end what they can count on from the General Assembly). This won’t become one of those perennial bills that gets debated year after year after year – with promises of action some time in the distant future.

BECAUSE THE STATE Senate has also made it clear they will gladly cancel their scheduled emergency session date for Tuesday – if the Illinois House turns out to be incapable of passing anything.

Which also means the stage is being set for all the rhetorical blame that will be dished out.

Democrats will argue it is their GOP colleagues who caused the failure. If Sears were to leave for some place such as North Carolina, or if the commodities exchanges were really to relocate to a place such as Indianapolis, they will claim it is the fault of the GOP for not being willing to approve a deal.

Meanwhile, my mind can already envision the GOP criticism that will say Democrats who lead the Legislature let this matter get bogged down with what they’d like to consider an “irrelevant” issue.

PERHAPS THEY’LL EVEN claim this is “class warfare” by bringing tax breaks for poor people into the political mix on this issue.

Of course, the fact that this tax credit is being put into the mix is largely due to the fact that Democratic leaders of the Legislature want to have a little political cover. Otherwise, all the Occupy Chicago activist criticism that will be forthcoming will turn out to be true.

Our state’s business climate garbled up by officials more interested in partisanship and one-upmanship than trying to accomplish something, which is just as bad as those legislators in places like Indiana who are pushing for “right to work” laws because they think it will appease the conservative ideologue segment of voters come the next Election Day.

This whole issue is nothing but a political mess, particularly for one that officials are trying to describe as a “done deal.”

IT IS A done deal – provided that nobody decides to screw somebody else in the process between now and Monday/Tuesday.

On the Statehouse Scene, that concept is always a reality.


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