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Illinois Policy Institute

Madigan is the longest-serving House speaker in Illinois history and one of the longest-serving state House speakers in United States history.

 Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s first political splash had nothing to do with policy. It wasn’t a blueprint for a better state. It wasn’t middle-class jobs growth. It wasn’t a successful welfare program.

News that Wrigley has started producing Skittles in Illinois has many excited – until they learn just how much Illinois gave in tax incentives to lure 75 new jobs.

Wrigley’s Yorkville plan began producing Skittles June 13 – and the tax and incentive deal that prompted the confectioner to produce its popular candy in Illinois may be sweeter than the actual product.

Wrigley President Casey Keller told WBEZ the Chicago area is a great place for Skittles production because of available transportation and highly skilled workers. Wrigley employs 75 workers on its Skittles production line. Keller failed to mention, though, that Chicago is also a great place for large companies to receive gifts from politicians.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, or DCEO, granted the company $2 million in tax breaks through the Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, program. The DCEO is also investing $250,000 in construction expenses and $37,500 in job training for Wrigley. Former Gov. Pat Quinn announced the incentives package in 2014, saying in a statement at the time: Wrigley knows “there is no better place in the world to grow.”

But the unfortunate truth for the many businesses that don’t receive special handouts, there are plenty of better places to grow than Illinois. Corporate handouts are not the real jobs growth the state needs to be competitive.

Rather, incentives like Wrigley received are a bad deal for taxpayers.

The Wrigley tactic is similar to how the state bribed Amazon to bring jobs to Illinois. In August 2015, when Amazon announced its first new warehouse and the new jobs that would come with it, it was revealed the state had given the online retail giant tax breaks worth approximately $1 million annually – for 10 years.

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The Amazon jobs are expected to pay just under $30,000 per year. The tax breaks the company is receiving are equal to $1,000 per job per year, meaning taxpayers are subsidizing 3.3 percent of Amazon’s payroll costs.

But the state could make itself attractive to companies like Wrigley or Amazon without burdening already-struggling taxpayers with these subsides.

Many Illinois businesses could save significantly more than 4 percent of payroll costs if the state’s workers’ compensation costs equaled that of surrounding states Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky.

It would make sense, then, that instead of crafting incentives packages for select businesses, lawmakers could reform the state’s broken workers’ compensation system. They could also tackle limiting the burden of Illinois’ highest-in-the-nation property taxes, and pass a responsible, balanced budget – the likes of which Illinoisans have not seen in 15 years.

Illinois experienced a large labor-force dropout in 2014, and the inverse in 2015, with a growing workforce and not enough job opportunities to meet the demand. But the common denominator is the same: the state’s economic climate does not produce enough jobs.

And, of course, without real reforms, Illinois is destined for more of the same. The month of May saw 12 Illinois employers announce 1,301 layoffs, including 513 in manufacturing.

Corporate welfare is not fixing the state’s long-term structural problems. Gifts for corporations may be the preferred policy of the political class, but Illinoisans looking for work need real reforms.

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