Wednesday, Feb. 11


Task force unveils job creation agenda

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[FEB. 11, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- The House Republican Task Force on Rural Economic Development, chaired by state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, has unveiled a comprehensive legislative package to spur job growth and economic development in downstate Illinois.

"Downstate Illinois has been hard hit by our slowing economy," said Mitchell. "We have had a tremendous loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs, which has contributed to higher than average unemployment rates and a decline in population. Consequently, our schools are receiving less state aid. Poverty, a lack of quality health care and crumbling infrastructure are all factors in the plight facing downstate communities."

The House Republican Task Force on Rural Economic Development held 16 hearings throughout downstate Illinois during the summer and fall of 2003. The task force heard testimony from local business and community leaders, economic developers, and elected officials. As a result of the feedback received, task force members have introduced the Hope for the Heartland plan to help reduce the burden placed on Illinois businesses and municipalities and help change the anti-business climate in Illinois.

The package includes:

--Initiating the Employ Illinois job renewal program. The legislation enables the creation of 10 job renewal zones and 10 agricultural zones. Businesses located in these zones would qualify for state tax exemptions.

--Improving and updating infrastructure to attract employers. This would include an end to road fund diversions and support for needed improvements for downstate airports and Amtrak.

--Reducing the burden on employers and communities. Proposals are to repeal the recently imposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System fees on municipalities and the commercial distribution fee placed on trucks and to reinstate the sales tax exemption for coal mining machinery.

--Providing funding for crucial agriculture programs. This includes AgriFIRST and the Illinois Grape and Wine Resources Council.

--Improving the effectiveness of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Proposals include completion of a management audit, creation of an Economic Development Advisory Board and making continued improvements to the state website to help attract new employers to available sites in Illinois.


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"An anti-business climate is growing in Illinois and hurting economic development and is resulting in a loss of jobs. The new administration has chosen to balance the budget on the backs of our families, our communities and the local businesses that provide jobs," said state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Mulberry Grove. "A minimum wage increase, high workers’ compensation rates, tax and fee increases, and the elimination of job creation and economic development incentives have all contributed to this anti-business, anti-jobs climate. Adoption of these initiatives based upon input from local officials, business leaders and workers across the state will help change that and bring new jobs back to our communities."

State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Carbondale, noted that businesses in his area have been particularly hard hit by the tax and fee increases. "Within months of these increases going into effect, many of our trucking companies have already announced that they will either leave Illinois or scrap previous plans to expand," said Bost. "We need to reverse that trend. If we want better jobs for our families, we need to help businesses, not hurt them."

With the anticipated loss this year of 1,600 jobs at the Maytag refrigerator factory in Galesburg, state Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Galesburg, said that swift action is needed to protect existing jobs and create new opportunities. "Western Illinois University has projected that if this trend continues, the unemployment rate in this area may rise to 25 percent," he said. "We cannot let that happen. This legislation sends a clear message that the state of Illinois is working to make Illinois a good place to do business."

Mitchell concluded by saying that this package of bills takes a new, aggressive approach to stimulating the economy. "For Illinois to succeed and prosper, no part of Illinois can be left behind," Mitchell said.

Members of the House Republican Task Force on Rural Economic Development are Bill Mitchell, chairman, R-Forsyth; Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; Dan Brady, R-Bloomington; Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg; Shane Cultra, R-Onarga; Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville; Jerry Mitchell, R-Sterling; Don Moffitt, R-Galesburg; Rich Myers, R-Colchester; Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet; Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica; Ron Stephens, R-Mulberry Grove; Ron Wait, R-Belvidere; Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville; and David Winters, R-Shirland.

[News release from Rep. Bill Mitchell]

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