The most important question for the new General Assembly is this: After legislators passed the largest tax increase in Illinois history, will they become champions for bringing jobs to Illinois?
If they will, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce has a blueprint for them, the governor and other state leaders to rebuild Illinois’ image as a state that is friendly to business. Our goal is to reinvigorate Illinois as a state dedicated to job growth, retention and innovation. We urge businesses to review the Jobs Agenda and advocate for the ideas in it with their local legislators.
Fiscal Health is Top Goal
It is not too dramatic to say that unless the state gets its financial affairs in order, all other job creation efforts are meaningless. Illinois political leaders have abdicated responsibility for the state’s economy for a decade, resulting in an enormous deficit, a months-long backlog of unpaid bills and unfunded pension liabilities.
The recent tax increase hurt Illinois’ image with businesses because they spiked the corporate tax rate and did not offer any budget cuts. State leaders cannot tax their way out of the deficit problem.
The solutions: Make a plan that deals with the deficit. Commit to an absolute reduction in year-over-year spending levels. Make pension fund and bond payments. Pay bills on time. Require current and former state employees to assume more healthcare costs. We need a new era of fiscal discipline today and for the future.
Other key Jobs Agenda focus areas include:
- Cut the cost of doing business by revamping the flawed, biased and needlessly expensive workers’ compensation system. Legislators could cut workers’ compensation costs by requiring the workplace to be the primary cause of the injury instead of just a contributing factor when determining eligibility for benefits. Illinois’ low causation standard contributes to abuse, and coupled with our generous benefit structure, results in much higher costs for Illinois employers than they would face in other states.
- Fix the overall state tax structure to put it in line with neighboring states. For example, we need to roll back the corporate tax rate by at least one percent and develop improved tax credits for economic development and job creation.
- Focus on economic development, namely to restructure the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to make job creation its top priority. The state dollars available for economic development have been severely lacking, and the shortsightedness of avoiding such investment needs to cease. For example, the need for convention and tourism promotions, trade show presence, international business development and support for local economic development organizations and manufacturing support groups like Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC) should be self-evident due to the proven multiplier effect captured by such initiatives. Also, the governor needs to establish and take the advice of a Council of Economic Advisors.
- Improve our ability to attract energy jobs by modernizing the regulatory system, offering incentives for energy development and supporting energy research and development.
- Build our transportation infrastructure and focus on projects already in the planning stages, including the CREATE rail plan, RTA upgrades, high-speed rail, the Illiana Expressway, extending Route 53, completing the extension of Thorndale Avenue, and constructing the western bypass around O’Hare International Airport.
Job growth is always on the Illinois Chamber’s agenda, and we hope state leaders share the same sense of urgency in 2011. iBi
The Illinois Chamber’s Jobs Agenda can be downloaded in full at ilchamber.org. If you have your own suggestions for the Jobs Agenda, contact Doug Whitley at [email protected].