As lawmakers contemplate a tax incentive package to appease Chicago’s financial exchanges who have threatened to leave Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn says any deal must also include breaks for working families.
The requirement comes as Quinn prepares to meet with legislative leaders on Thursday to go over ideas in advance of next week’s session at the Capitol. It also allows the Democratic governor to position himself as a fighter for the little people at a time when the exchanges stand to save more than $110 million a year.
“I don’t think we can have anything unless we have help for everyday people,” Quinn said Wednesday after an appearance at the Illinois Institute of Technology to mark the opening of a new research facility. “I think any time we’re talking about a tax reform package we should include families and everyday people and employers.”
CME Group, which operates the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, and CBOE Holdings, parent of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, have threatened to set up shop outside of Illinois following this year’s major income-tax increase.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, is leading efforts to craft a package to keep them here, but the measure stalled in Springfield last week after Republicans insisted on a more wide-ranging plan and Quinn raised concerns about lost revenue for the state.
Quinn upped the ante this week by insisting any agreement include an increase in the state’s earned income tax credit, which benefits low-income families. Illinois’ program is similar to the federal version and aimed at putting money back in the pockets of low- and moderate-income families. To qualify, a couple with no children must make $13,460 or less while families with one child must earn $35,535 or less. Last year, the state returned $105 million to families under the program.
Quinn suggested the program could be funded by closing corporate tax loopholes and “broadening the tax base.”
The proposal is not firm, as Quinn said ideas are still “germinating.”
“What I think we need to do is use this occasion to look at the Illinois tax code, which is complicated, and if we can make it fairer to the everyday citizen and to our employers, I am very interested in that,” the governor said.
A Cullerton spokeswoman said the Senate president is interested in expanding the tax package beyond the city’s financial exchanges, and has presented Quinn’s idea to his leadership team for consideration.
“He did take the governor’s request seriously,” said spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon. “He’s entertaining many thoughts and ideas, but no final decisions have been made.”
Phelon said the hope is that an agreement could be reached so lawmakers can vote on a plan when they return to Springfield next week to complete the fall veto session, but acknowledged that may be overly optimistic.
Despite considering ways to ease the tax burden on families and businesses, Quinn defended this year’s income-tax increase, saying it was “absolutely necessary to prevent bad things from happening in our state.”