Republican reps call on governor to reinstate Blue Collar Jobs Act
By TIM KIRSININKAS
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – House Republican lawmakers criticized Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday ahead of his budget address this week, calling on the governor to reinstate busines tax incentives he froze last month.
In a Friday news conference, state representatives Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, and Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, called on Pritzker to resume offering tax credits to new businesses through the 2019 Blue Collar Jobs Act, a bipartisan economic reform package pushed by House Republicans and signed into law as part of Pritzker’s first-year operating budget.
The legislation involved expansions of certain tax credits that businesses could take for relocating to Illinois or expanding existing facilities in the state.
Pritzker announced that he would be delaying tax credits offered under the legislation at the beginning of the General Assembly’s lame duck session last month, a decision that he said would help close the state’s budget deficit moving into the next fiscal year.
“Right now, we cannot afford to expand tax breaks to businesses that already receive tax breaks,” Pritzker said in a statement regarding the decision in January.
“As we recover from the pandemic, we must focus on job creation and balancing our state budget,” he added.
House Republicans criticized that decision Friday, stating that tax credits offered by the Blue Collar Jobs Act are what the state needs to spur economic growth amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They criticized the governor’s decision to freeze the tax credits that were hailed as a bipartisan compromise in 2019.
“In doing so, the governor is reneging on the bipartisan agreement from 2019 that he committed to on economic reforms,” Wheeler said. “Today I call on the governor to reconsider his decision and immediately lift the freeze so that we can continue to create more high-wage Illinois jobs.”
The House Republicans said the tax incentives offered through the program would be a key factor in alleviating the state’s budget woes and sparking an economic turnaround moving forward.
“The best stimulus check we can give our citizens is a steady, good-paying job,” Murphy said.
Keicher and Murphy pointed to the current success of the Data Center Tax Incentive as an example of how tax credits can spur economic growth in the state. Keicher said writing the incentives into law was a key factor in Facebook’s decision to build a new $800 million regional data center in DeKalb, which he described as “a shot in the arm” for his district.
“This is a game-changer for the city of DeKalb,” Keicher said. “I want this to be a game-changer for the entire state.”
Keicher pointed to a recent report from Crain’s Chicago Business that the Pritzker administration is using the data center legislation as leverage in an attempt to lure a data hub for the New York Stock Exchange to Illinois, proving the value business tax incentives can bring to the state.
“Those reforms are showing significant benefits, and they should be maximized to do more to bring good-paying jobs to Illinois,” Keicher said. “Doing so will increase the state’s current tax base and dramatically help alleviate our pressures on the state budget.”
Republicans also called for House leadership to form appropriations committees in order to consider the condition of the state’s budget moving forward.
Pritzker (shown), meanwhile, has repeatedly criticized state GOP lawmakers for not coming forward with their own proposals to fix the state budget. Republicans responded that they would like to see Pritzker’s proposed cuts first.
“I am not going to be here as an apologist for the governor’s policies and try to come to an accommodation,” Keicher said. “I am here as a fierce advocate for the great things that Illinois has in its future.”
Wheeler said House Republicans would explore options for a legal challenge to the governor’s decision to unilaterally freeze tax incentives passed by lawmakers under the Blue Collar Jobs Act.
“This was a firm agreement between all the parties back in 2019,” Wheeler said. “The last thing I expected to happen this year was to have a freeze on a program that he agreed to.”
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.