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The never-ending battle

Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* If you think that the CME/Sears “We’re moving unless you pony up” crisis was a one-off event, you have another think coming. From the Associated Press

More than 100 companies, including Deere & Co. and Abbott Laboratories, have incentive packages expiring in the next three years — and may want better deals to keep jobs in Illinois.


* And before you suggest that some sort of corporate tax reform or repealing the corporate income tax hike would stop these companies from putting out their hands, pause for a minute while I explain a couple things.

Corporate tax reform which spreads the burden around more equally to all corporations would mean modest tax relief to a relative handful of companies and big tax increases for everybody else. The companies who would finally be forced to pay significant state income taxes (like, perhaps, Caterpillar) would scream bloody murder, threaten to leave and demand relief.

And as far as repealing the corporate income tax hike goes, well, keep in mind that these companies all received tax incentive packages before the tax hike passed. Repealing that tax hike would not prevent them from threatening to move. Not gonna happen.

There are things the state can and should do to create a better business climate here. But don’t kid yourself that there’s some magical solution to our problems. Many of these problems were created long ago, and even if they are corrected, the corporations who received tax relief packages back in the day have now become addicted to them and will not give them up without a major fight.

* Meanwhile, if you think only Democratic areas have “judicial hell holes,” a new report by the American Tort Reform Foundation shows the problem is bipartisan here

After a year of observation on the “Watch List,” McLean County advances to a Judicial Hellhole due to its unique practice of allowing lawsuits that seek compensation for asbestos-related injuries, even when the plaintiff did not come in contact with the named defendant’s products . These “civil conspiracy” lawsuits target deep-pocket companies with allegations that they had some role in concealing the dangers of asbestos from the public decades ago . One such McLean case recently resulted in a stunning $90 million verdict .

McLean County is about as rock-ribbed Republican as you can get in Illinois.

* A bunch of conservative organizations including the Illinois Policy Institute, along with one left-leaning group has been berating FutureGen this week. But there is a big problem on the horizon as Exelon and other generators shut down coal-fired power plants

An Associated Press analysis has found that more than 32 mostly coal-fired power plants in a dozen states will be forced to close because of the new, more stringent regulations. Another 36 plants are at risk of closing.

No lights will go dark. But the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that 14.7 gigawatts _ enough power for more than 11 million households _ will be retired from the power grid in the 2014-15 period when the rules take effect. One rule curbs air pollution in states downwind from dirty power plants. Another sets first standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants from smokestacks.

The effect is greatest in the Midwest and in coal belt states such as Virginia and West Virginia, where dozens of units are likely to shut down.

Those closures are going to put a lot of upward pressure on electric rates as supply dwindles. And it’s one reason why many believe that Exelon has come out so strongly against coal gasification projects in Illinois. Tighter supply means higher prices, simple as that.

* And, speaking of conservative groups, check out how Illinois Statehouse News swallowed the Illinois Policy Institute’s spin hook, line and sinker

“This is not a study to say what exactly led to people leaving, but we do note that taxes matter to people, a good, friendly environment to business matters, bad deficits and a bad governance matters to people, and people vote with their feet,” [IPI vice president Ted Dabrowksi] said.

From the IPI’s study summary

Why are so many people leaving Illinois? Because the state’s poor public policies are forcing them out. Public policies drastically influence quality of life. On average, Illinois residents are leaving for states where they can have a higher standard of living.

* Also, too

However, jobs, not taxes, factored into 33,551 tax-paying households leaving Illinois and moving to Indiana. During the time period of the study, Indiana had a higher individual income tax at 3.4 percent before Illinois jumped from 3 percent to 5 percent and a sales tax of 7 percent compared to Illinois’ 6.25 percent.

Actually, 18,847 left for Indiana while 14,389 Hoosiers relocated to Illinois.

…Adding… From John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute…

I saw your blog post from Wednesday that mentioned the Illinois Statehouse News report about our latest study on out-migration from Illinois.

At the end of your blog post, you quote the Statehouse News story saying:

“However, jobs, not taxes, factored into 33,551 tax-paying households leaving Illinois and moving to Indiana. During the time period of the study, Indiana had a higher individual…. Illinois’ 6.25 percent.”

You commented on that passage, saying “Actually, 18,847 left for Indiana while 14,389 relocated to Illinois.”

Your comments seem to imply that either the Statehouse News story or our report were wrong. I wanted to make sure you had the correct information.

The 33,551 number that Statehouse News used reflects how many net households left Illinois for Indiana between 1995 and 2009. The 4,458 number you cite (which is 18,847 minus 14,389) is for just 2009… not the entire study period that Statehouse News is referring to.

The “actually” you used in your comments and then “hook, line and sinker” reference at the start of the post seem to imply that we got creative with our math or are misleading people, and that’s not the case. You can check our numbers with the IRS, and the Statehouse News also did not have any errors in that passage of the report.

I would appreciate if you could let your readers know that the story and our report were in fact correct.

Thanks, Rich, and Happy Holidays!

John Tillman

* Related…

* Protesters Want Mayor, City Council To Pass ‘Clean Power Ordinance’

* Sun-Times sale expected to be announced Wednesday - Deal involving group of local investors comes amid ongoing industry slump

* Judge Dismisses Plea to Stop Toll Hike

* Judge approves deal on disabled in nursing homes

* Funding Needed for State Transportation Projects

* Big Illinois firms wrest tax deal from legislature


  1. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:09 am:

    Along the south suburban corridor, do not dismiss “white flight” as one of the reasons for Illinoisans moving to Indiana. What is IPI’s “policy” solution to that one - restoring mandated racial segregation?

  2. - CircularFiringSquad - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:16 am:

    And their numbers don’t seem to add up. (Surprise) if you divide the billions by the thousands the average salary seems a little far fetched too
    And do we know how the IRS data handle EITC families…it is hard to determine from the spread sheets…As always expect the least from IPI scammers

  3. - Plutocrat03 - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:21 am:

    So will the same protestors if front of da new May’rs house be there to protest when electricity rates skyrocket due to decreased capacity?

    Who are the fools who do not recognize that constrained supplies yield higher costs?

    All those communities rushing to get alternative electrical sources are simply allowing Excelon/Com Ed to get closer to making their market a “competitive marketplace” freeing them from the regulated rate structure they are governed by. Cha-ching…. the sheep are shorn again!

  4. - Earthworm Jim - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:21 am:

    Rich, are the links to IRS data for full time period IPI looked at? It looks like it says 09-10 in the URL, but it’s hard to tell because the data doesn’t come with headers/labels. Also, is that the household number or the people number?

    IPI’s report says the total from 1995-2009 was:
    Indiana - 33,551 households and 100,790 people.

  5. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:27 am:

    Rich - on the energy generation if you look at the list there are few electric generation plants shutting down in IL or at risk of shutting down that have not already been publicly discussed or announced. Most of the IL coal plants benefit from installing pollution control devices ahead of the federal schedule as part of an agreement with the State back in 2006. In a regional energy market IL will continue to be a net exporter. As for Future Generation, it may or may not be a worthy project but its impact on market price will likely be very small given its size and experimental nature.

  6. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:34 am:

    –More than 100 companies, including Deere & Co. and Abbott Laboratories, have incentive packages expiring in the next three years — and may want better deals to keep jobs in Illinois.–

    I’m sure highly profitable companies like Abbott will gladly give up their tax incentives.

    After all, they’re big machers on the Civic Committee, the group that funds all those tasteful and classy billboards and broadcast spots telling us that “Illinois is Broke.”

    I mean, if you’re so worried about the state being broke, how can you take special tax breaks?

    Actually, they’ll all fly. It will be sold as a “job saver” and everyone will get to pat themselves on the back.

    As taxpayers, can we at least get stock or something? If you take the money, you should give something in return.

  7. - Jaded - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:39 am:

    Wow, McClean is number 8 on the list. That has to send a shiver down the spine of the insurance industry.

  8. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:40 am:

    ==As taxpayers, can we at least get stock or something?==

    Not a bad idea. Abbott Labs does include stock in their employee compensation packages.

  9. - Jaded - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:40 am:

    Sorry, only one “c” in McLean.

  10. - In the know - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:46 am:

    =McLean County is about as rock-ribbed Republican as you can get in Illinois=…I agree. Which means when 12 jurors award $90 million you can be damn sure the companies that conspired deserved it. And as always we will see what happens on appeal. If overturned will they un-hellhole McLean County…I doubt it.

  11. - walkinfool - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:46 am:

    I heard business owners and people in Indiana complain about higher taxes than in Illinois for years, when I worked there. The grass is always greener somewhere else, and politicians love to exploit that feeling.

    Given the relative populations of Illinois and Indiana, the movement of people between states is about as expected. Given that the supposed loss of Illinois businesses and people, according to IPI’s spin, is partly due to the tax climate, and Illinois taxes were lower than Indiana’s during the study period, will the IPI say that now people will be moving back to Illinois for the new higher tax rates? They really are ridiculous!

    However, we do need more stability, better public relations (in both senses) with the business community, and continued improvement in the risks and ease of doing business in this state.

    It’s clearly not taxes that have made the difference in this case between states. That’s lazy thinking, and stupid reporting.

  12. - Peter Snarker - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:49 am:

    If you are a C-level executive at a publicly traded Illinois-based corporation and you DONT seek maximum tax incentive-packages from a state/local government that is giving them out to other corporations, perhaps even competitors, then one might argue that the C-level management team is actually derelict in their duties to the shareholders. I certainly wouldnt want to face the annual meeting, or a quarterly earnings call, as a CFO or CEO and be asked the pointed question “Why are you not pursuing a tax mitigation strategy that has worked for XYZ, our competitor in the marketplace?”

    I am no tax expert by any means - and we’re so far down the rabbit-hole on this I realize it is mostly just an academic question really - but isnt their some constitutional protection that taxes must be reasonably generalized to an industry and cannot, for example, tax CAT at one rate and its competitor in the same market/same product, etc., at a different rate? That sounds almost quaint now, doesnt it?

  13. - soccermom - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:52 am:

    Soccerdad and I feel that our taxes are too high. Wisconsin is looking mighty good. Let the bidding begin…

  14. - Peter Snarker - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 10:56 am:

    Soccermom - you joke but in reality many people when deciding where to live even within our own state borders take into account property tax burdens in one community vs. the next town over. It’s sort of the same thing, writ small.

    Anyone remember when Led Zeppelin famously left the UK for several years in the 1970s as tax exiles? Of course, that was when UK had a top tax bracket of… 83%. But I digress.

  15. - soccermom - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 11:05 am:

    Mr. Snarker, you raise an important point. When Soccerdad and I were house-shopping, we took a careful look at property tax bills. And we wound up in Oak Park, where the property tax bite is enormous — not because we love paying taxes, but because when we did the cost-benefit analysis, it made more sense to live in a place with pretty good schools and amenities that we use a lot.

    By moving to Oak Park, we were able to move our kids from private to public schools, and we also were able to pay in-town fees for the many park district programs we use. We also like being able to walk to a thriving downtown, which some other communities on our list didn’t offer.

    I think businesses do the same thing. They look at the bottom line, but they also look at what you get for that price. And here in Illinois, you get the educated workforce, the cultural amenities, and a very nice lake thrown in for free. So I am less worried about businesses packing up and moving because of a point or two in corporate income taxes.


  16. - Ahoy - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 11:09 am:

    Maybe we can do some things to lower the cost of doing business without giving certain tax breaks to the few. Such as lowering workers comp and unemployment insurance costs. There is still a lot of work that can be done in those areas.

  17. - bmcosti - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 11:23 am:

    The most shocking statistic from the IPI’s study is the fact that a net 800,000+ people left the State of Illinois between 1995 and 2009. That’s roughly the equivalent to the entire population of Aurora, Rockford, Joliet, Naperville, Springfield, and half of Elgin. Considering were losing population to all of our border states it clear that something’s wrong in Illinois and it’s not JUST the corporate income taxes that’s driving people away.

  18. - Dentarthurdent - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 11:27 am:

    Wonder what incentives would keep Playboy from moving to LA??

  19. - Downstate - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 11:27 am:

    I’ve written in the past about the number of wealthy business owners that have moved their residence out of state, just from our small community. Many, on this board, derided the action and said “good riddance”.

    Well one of those departed, with more than 300 employees in Illinois, has come back to the state and asked for tax incentives to keep his headquarters here. It frankly doesn’t matter to him where the headquarters is located.

    So the state, by ignorning this fleeing populace is now having to pay the price. They lost the tax revenue from the relocated executive and now they’ll have to pony up even more to keep the employees here.

    The executive felt like the Illinios Democrats have been giving him the finer for years. They were mistaken to believe there were no consequences.

    Folks, this is only going to get worse.

  20. - Peter Snarker - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 11:30 am:

    Soccermom - I am not in a position to really know how much of a pull a nice lakefront and cultural amenities have on where a corporation locates itself - it certainly sounds like it would make sense. Seriously, I agree (but dont really know).

    CAT (Peoria) or ADM (Decatur) - no matter how high their tax burden gets I think you’re right… what state could lure them away with hundreds-of-millions of dollars from all the cultural amenities of Decatur and Peoria? It’s not all Oak Park out there… Ok, there’s the snark that gave me my name ;-)

  21. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 11:38 am:

    ===And we wound up in Oak Park, where the property tax bite is enormous — not because we love paying taxes, but because when we did the cost-benefit analysis, it made more sense to live in a place with pretty good schools and amenities that we use a lot. ===

    When we were looking for a house we had basically two choices: Chicago or Springfield. Chicago housing prices were higher, but property taxes were much lower. Chicago had infinitely more amenities than Springfield, but I wouldn’t have to commute during session. We chose the place with much higher taxes.

  22. - soccermom - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 11:43 am:

    Mr. Snarker, how much would it cost for ADM or Cat to replace all the folks who don’t want to move if their jobs go elsewhere? The amenities in Peoria don’t particularly work for me or my family, but there are lots of folks who love living there — and Decatur as well. I don’t know about you, but some of us love living in Illinois and would be devastated to move away from our homes and families. (I speak as an Illinois girl whose husband is looking for jobs in other cities. I’ve lived her almost all my life, and it’s hard to imagine uprooting.)

  23. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 12:05 pm:

    –CAT (Peoria) or ADM (Decatur) - no matter how high their tax burden gets I think you’re right… what state could lure them away with hundreds-of-millions of dollars from all the cultural amenities of Decatur and Peoria? –

    I think it’s been shown that CAT rarely pays state income taxes, and when it does, it’s a very small amount.

    State income taxes only on sales within Illinois, correct?

  24. - Peter Snarker - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 12:17 pm:

    Soccermom -

    I simply do not have any basis to know the transactional costs involved in moving a corporation HQ such as ADM from Decatur to some other locale (nor do I know what it cost Boeing to move its HQ from Seattle to Chicago, etc).

    I do accept and acknowlege your premises that (a) it isnt costless from a financial standpoint to the corporation to move and (b) that there are other considerations that can come into play to varying degrees than the tax burden/percieved tax burden.

    I am not arguing that. I am simply saying that while we can all agree, as I recall lamenting countless times on long-ago annual college apartment “moving days (which went well into the night, inevitably)” that, yes, indeed, “moving sucks!” and their are costs and other considerations, certainly even you acknowledge that taxes were a consideration - one you ultimately weighed in a certain direction, but reasonable people might weigh that same consideration differently than you did. Those certain people may, or may not be, executives in a Decatur HQ. Those executives may, or may not, be in line for astoundingly, obscenely, obnoxiously large bonuses if they can add hundreds-of-millions to the bottom line. Or maybe not. I just dont know. I simply think it is in the realm of possibility is all.

    Still - none of this speaks to the problematic nature of an ad-hoc corporate tax policy where each company is taxed, ultimately, according to its clout and the believablity of its threats to leave the state…

  25. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 12:42 pm:

    Interesting, we’re tied with NJ in losing the most citizens.,0,1967241.story

  26. - Earthworm Jim - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 1:00 pm:

    Does anyone know whether Rich is citing IRS data for 1995-2009, or just the 2009-2010 data? I asked earlier in the thread, but he never responded. And it’s hard to tell from the links he provides.

    If it’s not the same time window, it looks like he’s comparing apples and bananas.

  27. - The KQ - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 1:01 pm:

    I am very confused about the toll hike. The article says “fares will increase from 40 cents to 75 cents for I-PASS users and from 80 cents to $1.50 for cash customers.” I drive I-355 and the Spring Creek toll plaza has a sign that says the toll will go from $1.00 to $1.80 for iPASS users. How does that compute with the increase in cost quoted in the article? The new rates for all the tolls on 355 will be about $160 bucks a month just in tolls to travel the entire route. My only hope is that maybe it will force some people to find other routes for a while. Looks like this is finally going to force me into looking for a house closer to work.

  28. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 2:00 pm:

    With all the sparring between IL and IN, one bright shining beacon of cooperation stands out - the ongoing study for the Illiana Expressway, which will link I-55 in IL with I-65 in IN. Both states are performing a super job in working together seamlessly and bringing this project along on the fast track.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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