Everyone loves a positive news story. We are excited to hear when a company announces that it is expanding in our area. Even better, we love to hear that a company is leaving another state and setting up shop in Illinois, though I must admit, as of late we’ve heard more about businesses leaving our state than entering.
We can point to any number of reasons as to why companies have chosen to pack up and leave Illinois for another state: cumbersome regulations, the burden of worker’s compensation, high property taxes, or even the state budget stalemate – just to name a few. The one thing that is certain is that we don’t want businesses leaving Illinois. All that leads us to the question: what are we doing to stop businesses from crossing the border?
If we can agree on the obvious premise that Illinois can’t compete with other states’ lack of red tape and favorable tax climate, then we can see that a mechanism to keep jobs in our state is necessary. For that reason, the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (Edge) Tax Credit Act is imperative if we want to minimize the damage that Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin are doing to our local economy. In fact, all three of those states also have a version of Edge to lure businesses away from Illinois.
I think of the Edge program as being our last line of defense against a constant onslaught of neighboring states who are poaching our businesses left and right. And if you don’t think other states are actively working on recruiting Illinois businesses, then look no further than the billboards scattered along I-94 near the Illinois-Indiana border.
Messages that read “Can you spell deficit? We can’t” and “Envy is a sin, but moving here isn’t” are unmistakably taunting Illinois residents as they drive the corridor. I will readily acknowledge that the Edge program is far from perfect. This year I introduced House Bill 3105 which would strike the portion of Edge legislation that mandates a company must show that an investment could not be made in-state without the tax credit. In my opinion, the current language makes it difficult for small businesses to prove this before a committee. Small businesses often do not have the resources to employ an army of attorneys. And though I will be the first to tell you that the Edge program could be better, I adamantly believe that it is necessary to keep Illinois competitive regionally.
Even as we debate the merits of saving jobs and keeping businesses here in our state, some lawmakers thought it would be a good idea to spend $1.5 million on software that would translate the Illinois General Assembly website into Spanish. At first, this may not sound like a terrible idea, but that’s only because you haven’t heard the punchline yet.
In a classic case of the government trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, the sad humor is that the free market already has a solution. But wait, there’s more. Not only does the free market have a solution; the free market has a FREE solution. Google Translate is a 100% free application – and it works well.
I would like to thank my colleague Representative Keith Wheeler (R-50, Aurora) for demonstrating the effectiveness of the free technology by translating the entire text of the bill into Polish. When he was asked how difficult the software was, Rep. Wheeler (who runs an I.T. company) responded, “It just took one click.”
And here’s the kicker: my friends on the other side of the aisle wanted to spend $1.5 million on translating the ILGA website into one language. Google Translate can convert text into 100 languages.
Please consider the two topics of discussion this week: tax credits that save jobs, and software that is literally a waste of money. I don’t like to highlight the dysfunction in Springfield, but I do believe it is necessary that we re-focus our priorities to consider what we can do to grow Illinois both in population and job creation.
In the meantime, I would urge all of us, especially my colleagues in the General Assembly to remember that the free market is the only way to create jobs. If we support businesses that create jobs instead of coming up with more “good ideas” on how to spend more money, then perhaps we could see economic growth in Illinois. As someone once said, “There is no problem too great that the government can’t make it worse.”
As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.