EDGE tax credit program expires, but extension passes Illinois House

EDGE tax credit program expires, but extension passes Illinois House

Illinois’ EDGE tax credit program expired April 30; however, proponents of EDGE have passed a one-month extension in the Illinois House of Representatives.

The Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, tax credit program expired April 30. However, lawmakers who support EDGE are working to keep the program alive. House Bill 1125, which passed the Illinois House April 28, would extend EDGE until May 31, 2017.

The EDGE program is intended to provide incentives to companies to create new jobs in Illinois by giving them tax credits for new hires. But the program’s efficacy is questionable. Since the program started in 2001, EDGE has spent more than $1.3 billion in tax credits for politically connected companies. EDGE’s advocates claim the program has created at least 34,000 jobs in Illinois, but despite all those taxpayer dollars, Illinois is still nearly 20,000 jobs short of the peak employment it achieved in September 2000.

EDGE has a sunset provision and was originally scheduled to end permanently Dec. 31, 2016. But in January 2017, lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner extended EDGE’s expiration date to April 30.

The chief sponsor of HB 1125 is state Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, although House Speaker Mike Madigan originally filed the bill in January 2017. While HB 1125 passed the House April 28, it cannot make it to the other chamber until the Senate reconvenes May 2.

The vote to extend EDGE won in a landslide with 107 yes votes to only three nays. Two Republicans and one Democrat voted against the measure: state Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills and state Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield.

“Big companies are getting these tax breaks,” McSweeney told the Alton Daily News. “I want big companies to come to Illinois, but small businesses are creating 80 percent of the jobs. Why are we picking winners and losers? Government officials cannot pick winners and losers.”

And while multibillion-dollar companies like Amazon receive continue to receive tax breaks from the state, Illinois residents face some of the highest property taxes in the nation and some of the slowest economic growth in the country.

Rather than continue selective tax breaks for the politically connected, Illinois lawmakers should focus on passing real tax relief for all residents and businesses and implementing pro-growth reforms that would make Illinois an attractive state for a wide range of job creators.

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