When big corporations keep approaching Illinois about tax breaks

ADM and other large companies in Illinois keep pushing the state to offer more tax breaks:

The company has called Decatur home for more than four decades but said it needs to relocate to make international travel and employee recruitment easier. ADM hasn’t said where its new headquarters will be, but Chicago is the preferred location for an operation that would employ about 100 people, according to knowledgeable sources. The company has said it would also create a technology center at its headquarters site that would employ an additional 100…

The ADM tax package is one of several bills introduced Friday that would give breaks to specific companies or industries. The bills seem likely to reignite the debate over targeted breaks that swirled in 2011 when the General Assembly gave tax relief to CME Group Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. Both companies had threatened to exit the state…

The proposal also would let the company retain state income tax withholdings that employees would have paid the state. Motorola Mobility, Navistar International Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have received the same tax break to retain jobs…

Separately, two other companies are in line to receive tax incentives. Swiss insurance company Zurich plans to build its new North American headquarters in Schaumburg, where it employs about 2,500 people who would shift to the new facility.

More on the story from yesterday’s paper:

ADM, which said last week it is searching for a new corporate headquarters, wants $1.2 million a year for the next 15 to 20 years, company representatives told a State House Revenue and Finance Committee at a hearing in Chicago on Tuesday…

If lawmakers approve the bill, ADM would join a select number of companies that can retain their employees’ income tax withholdings. That group includes Motorola Mobility, Sears Holdings Corp., Navistar International Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

To get there, companies have lobbied lawmakers to amended the language of the state’s Economic Development for a Growing Economy tax credit program, or EDGE.

The print version also noted that about two-thirds of Illinois companies don’t pay corporate income taxes.

Such requests put politicians in a difficult position – which I suspect is one reason businesses make such requests. The politicians quoted in the stories sound fairly negative about the tax breaks; they think the companies are simply asking to avoid taxes they could afford to pay. At the same time, politicians don’t want to be the ones who are viewed as anti-business (which is related to being anti-growth or anti-jobs) and the ones who let big name companies get away. If other states or localities are offering better tax breaks, they have to compete with tax breaks or highlight other advantages (an educated workforce, access to a global city – Chicago, clusters of other nearby corporations and services, etc.). It can then become a race to the bottom as governments undercut each other to attract corporations which are then less valuable.

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