Illinois tax breaks often fail to add jobs or keep companies

The Chicago Tribune finds that tax breaks from the state of Illinois often do not work as intended:

In the first comprehensive analysis of 783 EDGE agreements, the Chicago Tribune found that two of every three businesses that completed the incentive program failed to maintain the number of employees they agreed to retain or hire.

State officials can’t say how many jobs have been created through the job program; nor can they say how many jobs EDGE companies have eliminated. The Tribune, however, found that 79 current or former EDGE recipients have reported eliminating 23,369 jobs through layoffs and closures since entering the program.

Officials have long pitched tax breaks as a competitive tool that bolsters the state’s fragile economy, and the program has seen explosive growth as Illinois battles with other states to attract and retain businesses. Leaders of the EDGE program say it has been a lifeline for dozens of companies, helping to create new jobs and improve workplaces.

But the Tribune’s analysis suggests that tax credits often do little to help companies expand or create sustainable jobs. A pattern of deals emerges in which businesses lobbied for maximum rewards and minimum requirements — and the state said yes.

Tax breaks may help politicians claim they are bringing in new jobs and money but they don’t often benefit taxpayers as much as the political and business leaders suggest. See earlier posts here and here. And perhaps the biggest issue is that once come communities or state start offering tax breaks, everyone feels like they have to play the game as well just to get a hearing from major corporations. It can then become a race to the bottom: as governments offer more and more breaks, companies benefit more and more yet the local area gets less and less.

If the Tribune‘s analysis is correct, perhaps a better route for the state would be to improve business conditions overall rather than resorting to tax breaks to simply survive.

Indiana again takes aim at Illinois businesses

The Illinoyed campaign ended but Indiana has a new strategy to lure Illinois businesses. From the featured story on the A State That Works website:

The state of Illinois has been drowning in debt for years due to mismanagement, and their only solution is to keep raising taxes. Sound familiar? Illinois taxpayers have been picking up the tab for longer than anyone cares to remember, but it wasn’t always that way.

Ten years ago Indiana and Illinois had the same AA credit rating, but the unfunded pension debt crisis in Illinois has steadily deteriorated over the years, to the point that their current credit rating of A- is the worst in the nation.

Illinois is borrowing a staggering amount of money to pay for state services and they’re seen as a bad risk to keep making those payments, according to the rating agencies. In fact, the interest alone on Illinois’ unfunded liabilities is about $1.5 billion per year…

Indiana is deliberately making smart financial decisions and defining what a state can do to pass the savings of efficient government on to their taxpayers by eliminating debt, keeping taxes low and continually balancing their budget.  It’s a refreshing change from a state like Illinois that has taxpayers picking up the tab for a public debt-management crisis, and it’s what makes Indiana a state that works.

Such efforts have been going on for quite a while yet I haven’t seen evidence that shows a campaign like this works. I’ve long suspected this is more about scoring easy political points than anything else; “look at the good things happening in Indiana while Illinois languishes.” Yet, somehow the Chicago region with its 9+ million people hangs on and the city is continually ranked as one of the top 10 global cities in the world.

One side note: part of northwest Indiana is in the Chicago metropolitan region. According to this campaign, some might get the best of both worlds: the residents and businesses get the lower taxes, less political gridlock, and less debt yet get to take advantage of the jobs and other opportunities the Chicago area offers. In the long run, a significant decline in Illinois or Chicago’s fortunes probably would have some residual negative effects not just on northwest Indiana but also the entire state.

Indiana moving away from “Illinoyed” campaign to attract businesses?

Indiana continues campaigns to catch the attention of Illinois firms but it may soon take a different tone:

For three years, in an economic development strategy aimed squarely at jobs and revenue in higher-tax states, Indiana has been trying to poach Illinois businesses. While they say the tactic has succeeded wildly, officials in Illinois say the impact of cross-border moves largely has been a wash, more political theater than anything substantive…

Kelly Harrington Nicholl, head of marketing at the development corporation since 2009, is the woman behind Indiana’s most memorably catty catchphrases: “Illinoyed” and “Stillinoyed.” But after years of poking fun at its fiscally challenged neighbor, Indiana is about to soften its tone. “We’re not going to beat up on Chicago anymore,” Smith says.

This means that a cluster of billboards along I-90 cautioning northbound drivers that higher taxes lie ahead will come down soon, Nicholl says. “It’s time to play nice,” she says. She declines to say whether Illinois’ newly elected Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, has anything to do with it. “There is a sunset to everything.”…

Despite Indiana’s bravado, the number of state-to-state moves are increasing in both directions, according to an analysis of preliminary data by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The data, supplied by New Jersey-based research firm Dun & Bradstreet, show 70 companies in Illinois relocated their entire business or branches of their business to Indiana in 2013, up from 40 in 2012. During the same period, 48 companies in Indiana moved all or portions of their businesses to Illinois, up from 39 in 2012.

The shift in political theater is noteworthy. Did everyone in Indiana get the political things they wanted? While the shift may be due to Rauner’s election, I wonder if it could also be due to (1) the Illinoyed campaign wearing out (marketing campaigns have a limited shelf life before people stop responding and (2) recognition that, according to the data, the campaign has been a wash (even popular lines can’t hold up forever if not supported by evidence). The competition between the states is likely not completely over but it is interesting to consider how Illinois and Indiana might cooperate to enhance the economies of both states…

Illinois property taxes second-highest in the nation

A new report shows at the end of 2012 Illinois had the second-highest property taxes, just behind New Jersey:

Property taxes in Illinois average 2.28 percent of a home’s value, according to the Urban Institute. In New Jersey, they’re 2.32 percent, and in lowest-taxing Hawaii, they’re 0.27 percent. (The lowest among mainland states is Alabama, at 0.46 percent.)All the states that ranked ahead of Illinois in the 2007–11 chart saw their tax rates go up in 2012. But the rate in Illinois went up more…

What’s moving us up the list? Home values are down but taxing bodies’ appetites are up, as Costin sees it. Illinois home values fell farther and are improving more slowly than those in many other states. The latest Case-Shiller index data, which came out on New Year’s Eve, showed that while home values in the nation’s ten major cities have recovered, on average, to June 2004 levels, they’re only back to February 2003 levels in Chicago. At the same time, Costin says, “most local taxing bodies do the maximum increase they can do under the law each year.” Lombard and Lake County are notable exceptions, he says; both have reduced their rates.

When they’re asking for more total dollars in taxation on a smaller pot of aggregate home values, the tax rate is what goes up. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the amount of tax you have to pay goes up, as Cook County pointed out earlier this year.

While there are concerns about the federal budget as well as the monetary issues of the state of Illinois, these rising property taxes hint at another concern: the need for tax revenues for lower levels of government. These property taxes primarily go for local schools, cities, and other local services. See where property taxes go in one town in DuPage County. Or how one Chicago suburb is thinking about privatizing more of its roads to pay for their maintenance.

It is interesting to note that property taxes are higher in specific states but not others. For example, much of the Northeast and upper Midwest has higher property taxes but while Kansas and Texas do, Oklahoma does not. And, California does not. In a state where one city went bankrupt are others have looked to outsource municipal services, the property tax revolts of the 1970s (see Prop 13) have successfully kept property tax rates down (though home values are still high). Yet, if the money doesn’t come through property taxes, it likely comes from other sources.

Illinois the first Midwest state to have majority of minority students in public schools

New data shows that Illinois for the first time has a majority of minority students in the state’s public schools:

Whites fell to 49.76 percent of the student body this school year, the new data show, a demographic tipping point that came after years of sliding white enrollment and a rise in Latino, Asian and multiracial students.

The black student population also has declined, but it still makes up almost 18 percent of the state’s public school students…

If those numbers hold, Illinois would be one of a dozen states — and the first in the Midwest — to have a school system in which minority students are in the majority, according to the most recent federal education data. Included in that category are Western and Southern states with large Latino or black populations, as well as the District of Columbia, according to the National Center for Education Statistics…

Illinois’ diverse student population doesn’t match the diversity of its teaching staff. Based on 2012 state data, 83 percent of Illinois’ public school teachers are white.

This is a relatively common thing in the United States today though it is unusual for it to happen to a Midwestern state. Relative to whites, minority populations in the United States have been growing.

One way this happens is through immigration. This is a reminder that although certain states are associated with immigration – places like California, Texas, Florida – immigration is closely tied to big cities. Here are some bits from a 2012 Census report looking at foreign-born populations in the 2010 Census:

While the foreign born resided in every state in 2010, over half lived in just four states: California, New York, Texas, and Florida. Over one-fourth of the total foreign-born population lived in California…
In 14 states and the District of Columbia, the percentage of foreign born was equal to or greater than the national average of 13 percent. With the exception of Texas, Florida, and Illinois, these states were primarily in the western and northeastern parts of the country.
With the exception of Illinois (14 percent), the percentage of foreign born in all states of the Midwest region was below 8 percent, including North Dakota and South Dakota, each with about 3 percent.

The Chicago region draws a large amount of immigrants and drew a large number of black migrants during the early 1900s in the Great Migration. Without the draw of jobs and opportunities in Chicago, the demographics of Illinois children today might look much more like Iowa or Wisconsin.

Experts suggest Illinois has no chance of landing Boeing plant

The State of Illinois may be putting on a hopeful face but experts suggest Illinois has little to no chance of enticing Boeing to open a new plant in the state:

But Richard Aboulafia, a longtime aircraft industry analyst, is among industry watchers who don’t believe Illinois has a chance.

“Zero, zilch, nada. Worst (possible location) I’ve heard yet, apologies to Illinois,” he said.

The state, he said, has almost no aerospace production or workforce with industry experience and has a heavy, strong union presence unlikely to appeal to Boeing as it goes through tense labor negotiations in Washington.

Illinois is also short on several requirements Boeing wants any new home to provide, aerospace industry consultant Scott Hamilton of Leeham Co. said…

Those requirements include a site adjacent to a “major international airport,” one with a runway at least 9,000 feet long, according to a copy of the company’s site selection criteria obtained by The Associated Press…

The area around O’Hare has almost no available land, said Brent Pollina, vice president of Pollina Corporate Real Estate in suburban Chicago.

Boeing also wants 300-400 acres of land “at no cost, or very low cost,” and buildings totaling several million square feet under the same or similar terms.

Without offering details, the company says it would like its corporate income tax, property tax and other taxes to be “significantly reduced.”

While Boeing is asking a lot (leading to a very good question of how much states or local governments should give up to entice companies), it doesn’t sound like Illinois has much to offer for this new plant. In a global age, the headquarters of Boeing may be in Chicago but that doesn’t mean a new plant has to be anywhere near it.

This offer to Boeing should also lead to broader conversations about what Illinois does offer, not including tax breaks and financial deals, compared to other states. Chicago and the surrounding region is likely the biggest asset with a global city (particularly financially), plenty of educated employees, other important companies and organizations, and a central location in the United States with the necessary transportation infrastructure (airports, railroads, highways, and water access). Illinois has lots of space outside the Chicago area and some rich farmland. The whole state is centrally located and has access both to the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. But, is Illinois perceived as good for business? How do its assets line up with those of other states?

Illinois revenue issue: “sin taxes” can’t keep pace

Even as legislators raise “sin taxes,” it is difficult for the state to bring in as much revenue from such taxes:

While state lawmakers continue to increase taxes on liquor, cigarettes and gambling, revenues from the so-called “sin taxes” aren’t keeping pace. At $1.95 billion, 2012 revenue from those taxes was almost on par with that of 2003, even though most tax rates increased significantly, according to a Daily Herald analysis of Illinois Department of Revenue financial reports…

Since tobacco taxes were raised in 2002, revenues steadily have declined to pre-hike levels as cigarette purchases dropped in Illinois. Legislators last year doubled tobacco taxes, but revenue did not keep up. After getting $609 million in tobacco taxes in the previous fiscal year, the state generated $856.5 million from tobacco taxes in the fiscal year that wrapped up a few months ago, according to the state legislature’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability…

While taxes on things like cigarettes and liquor are relatively easy to sell to many taxpayers, critics say a failure to maintain these revenue levels ultimately results in higher taxes for everyone. It’s no surprise to Illinois Policy Institute Executive Vice President Kristina Rasmussen that sales and income tax rates have also increased in recent years…

The state’s sales and income tax projections are also eroded by buyers going elsewhere for alcohol, cigarettes and similar products. Rasmussen said legislators are taking a shortsighted approach to revenue enhancements instead of solving long-term debt problems.

It is more popular politically to go after sin taxes than to look at larger spending or taxing issues.

But, what counts as a “sin” is also interesting to note – it is quite a social construction. Cigarettes are seen as a huge threat to public health but are not illegal. Alcohol was once banned on a national level and there were decades of temperance movements but it too is legal and brings in a lot of revenue beyond sin taxes – think what restaurants generate. Marijuana is a growing sin tax alternative as some places look to cut costs: instead of jailing users and sellers, why not just ticket them or tax them, making money off of behavior that is still seen as deviant. Thus, it isn’t surprising as more of these traditional “sins” fail to generate sufficient revenue that new sins are identified, from red-light cameras to speed cameras to soft drinks to junk food and beyond.

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.

Determining how Illinois road money should be split between Chicago area, downstate

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning argues Illinois needs to change its formula for how it apportions road money between the Chicago area and downstate:

A deal hammered out by the state’s top politicians in the 1980s means that 45 percent of all transportation revenues go to the Chicago metropolitan area and 55 percent is allocated to downstate Illinois.

CMAP wants to change the status quo with a performance-based system using population, congestion, pollution and economic impact as criteria when it comes to doling out dollars for significant projects such as new highways, bridges and interchanges or additional lanes…

The agency points out that the metropolitan region comprises 65 percent of the population and contributes about 70 percent of the state’s income tax and 65 percent of its sales tax revenues.

Yet, in IDOT’s 2014-2019 multimodal transportation improvement program, about $3.1 billion — or 45 percent — out of $6.9 billion goes to District 1 including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, CMAP planners said…

“It’s a very bad idea,” said Republican Rep. Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon. “The needs of southern Illinois in terms of total miles is far greater than in the suburbs or in Chicago. I would be somewhat dismayed if not shocked to think anyone would propose changes. We have hundreds of bridges that either need to be replaced or are older and in disrepair.”

My first question is how lawmakers came to a 55/45 split in the first place. I would hope this agreement was based on some hard numbers but perhaps they were the only figures that everyone could agree on?

It sounds like the current debate would shape up like this: downstate lawmakers argue they have plenty of road miles and infrastructure to maintain while Chicago area politicians argue they put in a majority of the money and have a majority of the population. Do Illinois lawmakers even have the ability to discuss something like this even in the midst of other major money woes? Wouldn’t this simply inflame the ongoing Chicago versus downstate debate? I suspect this won’t be on the front burner even if infrastructure is a growing conversation piece around the country.

Texas governor not the only one after Illinois businesses; also Florida, Wisconsin

The Texas Governor campaigned for Illinois businesses and he spoke earlier this week at a conference. But, he is not alone – other states also want Illinois businesses:

Perry is not the only governor out to siphon commerce this week. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker on Tuesday attended the same Chicago conference, touting his state’s business environment and standing as a bioscience leader. A day earlier, Florida’s Rick Scott sent a “Wish you were here” letter to Illinois business owners, noting that his state is “nipping at the heels of Texas every day” as a place to do business and pointing out that “Illinois’ formula of more taxing and spending ISN’T WORKING.” (Never let it be said Scott is undercapitalized.)…

Perry isn’t just selling Texas in a state weighed down by budget crises and the lack of political will to make the tough choices that solutions will require. He is on a trip financed by a public-private partnership to sell the concepts of lower taxes, less government interference, “a legal system that doesn’t allow for oversuing,” lower workers comp rates…

In this, pitting one state against another is good, Perry argued, in “the same way that it’s good for the White Sox and the Cubbies to compete against each other. If you don’t have competition, you’re not going to get pushed out of your comfort zone. That’s the simplest form I can put it in. I think our Founding Fathers understood that you had these laboratories of innovation and the ones that were good at it would be successful.”

Perry ignores one area of competition present in the Chicago area: between cities and suburbs. There have been numerous discussions in recent years about the tax breaks offered in different communities (here is an example in Hoffman Estates) or Chicago attracting headquarters and businesses back to the city and whether this harms the suburbs. Granted, all of these communities have to deal with the issues and regulations of the State of Illinois. But, it appears a number of businesses have still found places they like including in the Loop, Schaumburg, Northbrook, Deerfield, Naperville, Oak Brook, and other places. Between these localities, businesses can look for favorable settings and take advantages of the peculiarities of each place.

There was also one issue that highlighted a possible problem in Texas that may have been highlighted by a recent tragedy:

Take a good look at how close the fertilizer factory that blew up last week was to a middle school and nursing home in West, Texas, and decide for yourself whether you endorse Texas’ stance on zoning (“We respect local control,” Perry said) or think the state should intervene. Laissez faire isn’t always the way to go.

I assumed Illinois provided for local control over zoning as well…though I’m not sure what happens when it comes to potentially dangerous fertilizer plants.