Some say good riddance to controversial EDGE tax credit that expired months ago

By Greg Bishop

Aug. 3, 2017

Illinois News Network

The controversial tax credit handed out to some businesses, but not all, expired months ago and a couple of Illinois state representatives says good riddance.

The Economic Development for a Growing Economy tax credit, known as EDGE, provided special tax incentives to certain businesses to encourage those companies to locate or expand in Illinois, but the program was criticized for not having enough checks and balances. Even Gov. Bruce Rauner said EDGE needed to be reformed to ensure it only focused on job creation, not retention.

The program expired at the end of April this year.

State Rep. David Harris, R-Mount Prospect, said on the House floor this week that lawmakers should reinstate the EDGE tax credit. He said it’s hurting the state’s ability to attract new businesses like tech manufacturer Foxconn, which got billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded incentives to set up in Wisconsin.

“We have no competitive program to offer any company because it expired,” Harris said.

State Rep. Jeanne Ives, however, said the credit was unfair by picking winners and losers.

“I understand they want to reform the EDGE tax credit to attract businesses,” Ives, R-Wheaton, said, “but the truth is if we just level the playing field for everybody and reform our fundamentals in Illinois, we’re going to be much better off for all businesses.”

Former Gov. Pat Quinn gave out hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits over several years through EDGE, but multiple news investigations showed job growth from benefiting companies fell short of stated goals.

“It was always a gamesmanship,” Ives said. “It’s like you had to play ball with the governor. So if you weren’t playing ball, if you weren’t one of those special people to come and approach them, you weren’t going to be eligible for this.”

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said Illinois state government has a horrible track record protecting taxpayers from abuse.

“The last thing I trust Illinois government to do is pick winners and losers in this situation,” McSweeney said. “We should be cutting tax rates, not picking winners and losers.”

Ives said instead of efforts trying to reform and revive the expired credit program, lawmakers should make Illinois’ poor business environment better for all companies, big and small.

Illinois has the seventh highest workers’ compensation costs in the U.S., the second highest property taxes, and a recent study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University put Illinois regulations double that of neighboring Missouri and Kentucky.

A bill to extend the EDGE tax credit with some reforms passed the House in May. The state Senate has yet to take action.

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