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
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
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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