Ill. lawmakers divided on tax breaks for companies

November 9, 2011 2:56:19 PM PST
Illinois lawmakers are apparently still divided on the issue of tax breaks for companies like Sears and the CME Group, which are threatening to move out of the state if they don't get tax relief.

On Wednesday, CME's executive chairman Terry Duffy backed off his earlier prediction that what happened in Springfield this week would determine whether his multi-billion dollar company would remain in Chicago where it began 163 years ago.

"My board will take as much time as necessary to deliberate where our future headquarters should be or not be," Duffy told ABC7.

Duffy complains that CME is unfairly taxed for trades that originate outside of Illinois and that the company shoulders too much of the state's corporate tax responsibility.

Legislative leaders would like to deal with the problem during a separate special session at the end of the month.

"So if that happens, then we will just make a decision, do we want to stay here and pay $158 million in corporate taxes, 6% of the bill and the number one taxpayer, or reevaluate taking the company somewhere else where it is an environment that respects and understands our business.," said Duffy.

As Duffy made his case at the Capitol, Occupy Springfield demonstrators protested corporate tax breaks among other things. Citizens Action Illinois activist Bill McNary said the issue is not that CME pays too much.

"Why don't we just close the loopholes for the other corporations and make it a more even playing field," said McNary.

While many lawmakers are sympathetic to CME's dilemma, they oppose legislation to address only one company.

"It can't just be about them. It's got to be about more than that. It has to be about broader tax relief," said Sen. Matt Murphy (R).

Duffy says as many 150,000 jobs could be lost or affected if his company, which deposits an estimated $200 billion in area banks, should leave Chicago. He responded to comments by some lawmakers that CME's threat to relocate its headquarters is a bluff.

"So I guess I would say, what am I bluffing with? I have to do what's in the best interest of my shareholders. I have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to do so," said Duffy.

ABC7 is hearing that it is all but a done deal that the legislature will return to Springfield on November 29 to begin a special session at which time they will consider the CME tax dilemma.


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