Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Illinois: Scourge of business in the heartland

If the editors of the Chicago Tribune think that Springfield has gone non-linear in its anti-business crusade, take it to the bank. Or something.

Illinois has a reputation for being an expensive and difficult place to do business, a big reason why the state has the ninth-highest unemployment rate in the country, higher than every state that borders it. Employers want to locate where they are welcome.

So you might expect that the people who write laws in Illinois — land of 8.8 percent unemployment, $96 billion pension debt, $8 billion in unpaid bills — would be falling all over themselves to welcome business.

Think again.

Last week, the Illinois Senate narrowly passed a bill that would require publicly traded companies doing business here to release how much they pay in state income taxes. The sponsors suggest that something sinister must be going on, because many companies don't pay state income tax. "Maybe if we were to find out that there are some very profitable corporations operating in the state of Illinois, we might want to say that maybe they should pay a little more," House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie said last week.

Of course, in principal Illinois knows which public companies are doing business there, because if a corporation has more than the most limited presence in a state it needs to qualify to do business by filing a form with the secretary of state's office. And, of course, presumably Illinois also knows who its taxpayers are, and what they paid. Therefore, the purpose of this statute, which will create yet more work for beleaguered corporate tax departments, is (a) to substitute for the state's own managerial incompetence, and/or (b) to develop information that can be used by lefties to bash business for political advantage, neither of which reason reflects well on Illinois.

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