The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

November 4, 2013

Lawmakers: Tax-break deals need more scrutiny

CHICAGO — Once again Illinois lawmakers are considering a list of tax breaks and other incentives to keep some companies in state and attract others — would-be deals that even many supporters say the state needs a more comprehensive method to scrutinize in the future.

The most widely publicized would give up to $24 million to an agribusiness giant, Archer Daniels Midland Company, to keep a new global headquarters in the state. Another would give breaks to the company that emerges from the soon-to-be-completed merger of OfficeMax Inc. and Office Depot Inc., if it chooses Illinois as it headquarters rather than Florida.

Others would give perks to makers of online video games and a chemical distribution company contemplating moving its headquarters to Illinois.

Lawmakers meeting this week in the fall legislative session are typically under pressure to act. But there’s no certainty the packages would be approved if they’re called for a vote. Illinois’ troubled finances make the timing difficult and there are still some doubts about the wisdom of big deals the state has offered other companies in recent years.

Even if some of the proposed incentives are approved, some lawmakers say there’s a feeling in Springfield that a harder look is needed at how Illinois grants tax incentives and other perks.

“There are some of us, we talk about it a lot. We’d love to make it happen,” said state Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican. “It’s not going to happen in the next two weeks, I can tell you that, but it does need to happen.”

The state’s primary tools for businesses it’s either trying to keep in Illinois or recruit to the state are so-called EDGE tax credits. Officials with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity tout how the credits come with job-creation or retention requirements and provisions that require companies to give money back if those goals aren’t met.

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