Gov. Pat Quinn said today that it is not the right time to approve a tax break for Archer Daniels Midland and instead urged ADM to put heat on lawmakers to approve changes to the state’s public pension systems.
“Our number one way to help business is to get pension reform. We need ADM and all of our big businesses to band together, put pressure on the legislature — the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans — to get a vote on the pension reform. That helps everybody. That helps every business. That helps every taxpayer,” Quinn told reporters in Chicago today. “I think we need to have a moratorium on any special legislation for tax breaks for corporations. We have to focus on pension reform.”
ADM announced last week that it plans to move its headquarters from Decatur, where it has been based for more than 40 years. The company says it plans to keep most of the jobs that are in Decatur now but would move about 100 positions to the new headquarters. It appears that Chicago is on ADM’s short list of potential locations for its headquarters, but ADM is seeking up to $24 million in tax breaks over the next 20 years.
However, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem less than warm to the idea. “I’m a Chicago resident, so I am always happy when companies decide to come my way. But as a state lawmaker, I’m a little troubled at the idea that we’re going to spend state tax money to help you leave Decatur, which as I recall is still in the state of Illinois, in order to come to Chicago, which is also in the state of Illinois,” Democratic Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie said during a hearing in Chicago on the issue earlier this week.
“The reason that I’m going to oppose all of these deals: because I want to cut tax rates across to board. I don’t think that the government should pick winners and losers,” said Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican. Quinn’s spokespeople say he would not even consider a proposal to give ADM a tax break until pension legislation is on his desk.
“This is our moment,” Quinn said today of pension reform. He said he thinks that the special committee working on the issue has made progress, and he hopes that lawmakers will vote on legislation when they return to the Capitol for their veto session later this month. “I think there’s a lot of good ideas there. They need to kind of put it all together in a bill, and then get that bill to the House and Senate and then get a vote.”
Senate President John Cullerton told the State Journal-Register this week that he supports the “compromise” plan that the committee has been working on. The proposal would save a projected $138 billion over 30 years. Cullerton said he hopes a vote can take place during the veto session. However, new House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, a western springs Republican, said this week that he is doubtful a pension vote will take place during the veto session. “The issue needs to be done, but we need to do it right,” Durkin told Illinois Public Radio. “But I am not going to just wave the white flag out of expediency because people have been worn down or they're tired of the issue and want to get it off their plates.” Some Republicans say they want a proposal that would produce larger savings.
Union representatives oppose both an ADM tax cut and the pension changes that committee members say they are considering. Unions instead back a proposal that Cullerton sponsored during the spring legislative session. A statement from Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, on behalf of the We Are One Illinois union coalition, called any consideration of a tax deal for ADM “baffling, troubling and wrong.” Union officials have chided lawmakers for giving tax break packages to Sears and The CME Group, which owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, while at the same time seeking to cut public retiree benefits. They argue that the state should not be sacrificing potential revenues that could instead be used to bolster the troubled pension systems. “The governor would take the life savings of teachers, police and other public employees and retirees, only to turn that money later into corporate welfare. That's a win for one big corporation but a devastating loss for hundreds of thousands of middle-class families across Illinois, not to mention another blow to the state's fiscal condition,” Carrigan said. “Illinois’ corporate elite push for unfair, illegal cuts to modest pensions promised to public employees and retirees, yet have no problem asking for handouts to pad their own bottom lines and pay huge bonuses to CEOs. Our coalition stands firmly in favor of closing wasteful tax loopholes to get our state back on the right fiscal track.”