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IMA says workers’ comp reform, broader sales tax base will help manufacturing jobs

From the State Journal-Register: Broadening the sales tax base and overhauling property taxes are two components of a legislative agenda the Illinois Manufacturers Association said will help restore manufacturing jobs to the state.
IMA president and CEO Greg Baise said Tuesday the state’s business climate has been devastating to manufacturing, which has seen 300,000 jobs disappear since the turn of the century.

“We have lost jobs in all parts of the state,” Baise said. “Forty percent of the manufacturing jobs in the Chicago region have disappeared. We have seen job losses of 25 to 30 percent in all the major urban areas throughout the state.

Yet no one seems to be alarmed at the fact that the loss of these jobs really means a disappearing middle class in this state.”

The average wage paid for a manufacturing job is $75,000 a year.

The job losses have occurred in Illinois while at the same time manufacturing jobs have increased in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.

“The question I believe is a job-growth climate that is not really there in this state as it is in other states throughout the Midwest,” Baise said.

The solution, he said, is a five-point “Middle Class Manufacturing Agenda” that will show business owners that “Illinois is serious about attracting and keeping manufacturing jobs.”

The plan includes:

Fixing the state’s financial problems by reining in spending, balancing the budget and enacting pension reforms;

– Make changes to workers’ compensation, particularly in the area of causation and medical rates that are significantly higher in Illinois than many other states;
– Broaden the sales tax base to include services as well as reinstating tax breaks for things like research and development;
– Overhaul property taxes, particularly in Cook County, where commercial and industrial property is taxed at a higher rate than residential; and
– Improve education to provide a qualified workforce.

Democrats have so far been reluctant to make sweeping changes to workers’ comp, arguing that the changes being pushed by Gov. Bruce Rauner and some Republican lawmakers will hurt injured workers.

Likewise, Democrats have pushed unsuccessfully to close corporate tax breaks rather than add new ones.

Baise said the IMA supports Rauner and his pro-business reforms. He also acknowledged business being able to work with Democrats in the past on the workers’ compensation issue.

“That’s why we think it’s important that we’ve got to get this fistfight over with about the budget so we can get kinds of reforms in workers’ comp and other things we’ve talked about here today,” Baise said.

Rauner said Tuesday he agrees that not having a permanent budget in place is bad for the state, but it could be worse.

“We have been on a very bad track in Illinois economically for decades,” Rauner said during a Springfield appearance. “The budget impasse doesn’t help, but I can tell you what would make it worse is having a massive tax hike as part of the budget and doing no reforms to help our businesses. … Our regulations and our taxes are not competitive.”

Rauner has said repeatedly that he believes the Democratic-controlled legislature will be willing to adopt some of his “turnaround agenda” after the election. He said he’s been assured by top Democrats that lawmakers will be more willing to tackle controversial issues then.

— Contact Doug Finke:, 788-1527,