By John Cullerton. As it appeared, June 24, 2014 2:36PM - Chicago Sun-Times

pres-cullertonRemember when I announced, in the Sun-Times last April, that I like Illinois? I still do. I like Congressman Randy Hultgren, too. The problem is that he was wrong on the facts in a recent op-ed. He falls in line with the rest of the political naysayers slamming the door in the face of business with negative rhetoric and faulty allegations about our business climate.

Hultgren blames Illinois’ tax structure for businesses moving from our state to Wisconsin. Compared to Wisconsin — Hultgren’s business friendly wonderland — Illinois already has a lower corporate income tax rate: 7 percent, compared to 7.9 percent in Wisconsin. Furthermore, our corporate income tax rate is scheduled to drop to 5.25 percent at the end of the year, making it the lowest rate among its neighboring states. More important, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, 75 percent of the business community, comprised of smaller companies, pays the personal income tax rate and not the corporate income tax rate. Illinois’ personal income tax rate will soon be less than half of Wisconsin’s: 3.75 percent, compared with 7.65 percent in Wisconsin.

Hultgren points to Kenall Manufacturing as proof that Illinois taxes are forcing businesses from Illinois. Again, the facts state otherwise. Illinois and Wisconsin offered Kenall Manufacturing competing incentive packages. According to Randy Hernandez, Kenall’s executive vice president of operations, Wisconsin’s “package was clearly more aggressive.” Hultgren says the state should lower taxes and should not make special deals to lure businesses, yet, as an example he points to a business lured to Wisconsin by special deals.

Office Depot didn’t move to Florida because of taxes; rather, it moved because it had a long-term lease in Florida that it did not wish to break. Yet again, Hultgren’s claims about corporate taxes miss the mark. Office Depot didn’t expect to have a significant income tax liability, if any. In fact, two-thirds of Illinois corporations do not pay any corporate income taxes.

For every business choosing to leave the state, we can point to more corporations choosing to do business in Illinois. Navistar, which moved from neighboring Indiana, and Ford Motors have expanded operations in Illinois. With a highly trained work force and great transportation, it is little surprise that Site Selection magazine chose Chicago as the Top Metro in America, and Illinois as one of the top states for corporate facility investment. This trend is sure to continue with exciting projects like the Digital Lab for Manufacturing coming to Illinois. The Digital Lab is a $320 million partnership between academia, government and industry that will spur innovation in manufacturing.

Contrary to Hultgren’s doom and gloom, the Illinois unemployment rate just fell to its lowest level since November 2008. More accurately, the Pew Charitable Trusts publishes an employment rate placing Illinois’ job growth higher than the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced that from 2009 to 2013, Illinois added 27,935 business establishments, and ranks fourth nationally. People and businesses aren’t moving from Illinois; rather, they are moving in.

Certainly, there is room for analysis and change in Springfield when it comes to our economic climate and our approach to incentives. While it is politically inconvenient for some, that doesn’t veil the fact that Illinois is on a path to economic progress.

johnjcullertonJohn J. Cullerton
Illinois Senate President