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Hoffman Estates Battle Over a Tax Break For Sears

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A Matter of Degree
A Matter of Degree

Of course, corporate welfare for the 1% trumps education, schools, kids every single time. I’d hoped the outcome was different since Hoffman Estates is not a poor district, and thus has a little clout, but I was wrong.

When Ms.  1 Crates met with Hoffman Estates officials in March, she learned the money might not be coming after all because the tax break might not expire.

“I cried,” Ms. Crates said. “The school district has cut for the last two years. We’ve had no wage increases, and we were planning on that revenue to bring down our class sizes. We have one algebra class with 47 students. It was devastating.”

Ms. Crates and her school district had suddenly found themselves at the epicenter of Illinois’s latest political and financial crisis, described by one lawmaker as round-robin blackmail among Midwestern states. Unless Illinois agreed to extend the tax break, Sears threatened to leave. The state of Ohio, for one, dangled $400 million in tax incentives as a lure.

But when lawmakers agree to corporate demands for property tax relief, they induce strain on the financial stability of schools, local governments, libraries and parks that rely on those taxes as their most stable form of revenue. The State of Illinois, with $3 billion in unpaid bills, has already disrupted local governments’ revenue streams, often delivering payments to schools at least four months behind schedule.

So when Ms. Crates and her colleagues learned in March that Sears might win an extension of its tax break, they followed the lead of many corporations with well-connected lobbyists. They began a fierce campaign.

At first, the district wasn’t even involved in discussions about the bill. The village of Hoffman Estates oversees the distribution of the Sears property tax revenue. Village officials did not mention that they had helped write and introduce legislation to extend the tax break until months after they did so, according to Ms. Crates. “I was dumbfounded that a public agency like ourselves, right next door, didn’t bother to tell us and tried in the middle of the night to pass legislation without telling us,” Ms. Crates said.

(click here to continue reading Town and School District Battle Over a Tax Break – NYTimes.com.)

and I’m with Representative Currie: some state needs to have the gumption to stand firm, and see if moving a giant corporation’s HQ is as simple as renting a moving truck.

The House Democratic leader, Barbara Flynn Currie, questioned whether the state should keep bending to satisfy threats from businesses entertaining other offers.
“Do we respond or do we just say goodbye? Or do we even call their bluff?” she asked. “I mean, sometimes I think we should start calling the occasional bluff and say: ‘Wait a minute. Is this for real?’ Because the costs of moving are certainly significant.”

Footnotes:
  1. Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Crates []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 17th, 2011 at 11:41 am

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