Journalist in Residence
In the 25 years I’ve been in the news business, I’ve never experienced a news conference quite like the one I was at Tuesday in the Illinois Statehouse.
The event felt more like a church revival than a Capitol presser, with politicians and preachers at the podium, activists shouting affirmations from their seats behind reporters and a prayer offered at the end of the conference.
Was this issue abortion? Gambling? Marriage?
Nope – corporate tax disclosure.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, are pushing legislation to require publicly traded corporations doing business in Illinois to disclose how much they pay the state in income taxes.
“Being able to know where the money is coming from is really important,” Cullerton said. “We get some money from corporations but we don’t know why it is that two-thirds of them don’t pay anything. What we are asking for is pretty sensible. We are just saying that you should disclose information about your taxes for publicly traded companies.”
But Todd Maisch, a lobbyist for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said the legislation is a political ploy.
“They want to demonize and hold up in a negative light individual taxpayers to promote whatever agenda they have,” Maisch said. “It’s not just about perhaps trying to extract more money from Illinois corporations. It’s also about using that type of information to try and leverage them on a whole host of issues. It could be labor negotiations or it could be all sorts of issues.”
State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, called the measure sponsored by his caucus leader, “silly.”
“It’s been my experience that corporations, like most taxpayers, want to pay as little in taxes as possible,” he added.