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New bill is part of national effort to phase out corporate tax incentives

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Illinois lawmakers

Sen. Ram Villivalam, left, and Rep. Bob Morgan, both Democrats, discuss their proposed legislation to form a multi-state compact that would agree not to use tax incentives to poach businesses from one state to another. Villivallam, of Chicago, and Morgan, of Deerfield, spoke during a news conference Tuesday at the Capitol in Springfield. 

SPRINGFIELD — Two Democratic Illinois lawmakers unveiled legislation Tuesday to form a multi-state compact in which each member state would vow not to use company-specific tax incentives to lure businesses away from another member state.

Rep. Bob Morgan, of Deerfield, and Sen. Ram Villivalam, of Chicago, introduced identical legislation that would establish the “Phase Out Corporate Giveaways Interstate Compact.”

“These kinds of tax breaks have historically been justified as a necessary evil,” Morgan said during a Statehouse news conference Tuesday. “A necessary expense to bring jobs and business to our state, but in many ways to keep jobs from leaving the state of Illinois as they hold us hostage because other states are offering them tax incentives.”

The proposal is part of a nationwide effort to phase out all tax incentive programs aimed at luring businesses to move across state lines, or to prevent them from moving. Similar legislation has already been introduced this year in Iowa, New York, Florida, New Hampshire, Hawaii, West Virginia and Maryland.

Villivalam said economic development tax incentives created an uneven playing field because some businesses get them while others don’t.

“Corporate giveaways have grown this business inequality that we see and generate a race to the bottom,” he said. “This is because companies have too frequently been given tax credits, tax incentives to choose a location that they would have chosen anyway. So instead of creating additional jobs, they deplete the community’s tax base.”

Senate Bill 2502 and House Bill 4138 would enter Illinois into the Phase Out Corporate Giveaways Interstate Compact. That would involve an agreement not to use tax incentives or grants to lure a specific company away from any other compact member for the purposes of relocating a corporate headquarters, manufacturing facility, office space or other retail development.

That prohibition, however, would not apply to tax incentives that are available generally to all businesses such as workforce development grants. It also would not apply to company-specific incentives offered by local governments or incentives offered to companies already located in Illinois.

Although the initiative is being sponsored by two Democrats, it also has the backing of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

“We don't like government picking winners and losers in the economy. Usually when they do, they usually pick wrong,” said Brian Costin, deputy state director for AFP’s Illinois chapter.


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