Setting public policy for Illinois should not be a zero-sum game where one side wins everything and the other gets nothing. That approach is destined for failure, and, clearly, it is failing the people and employers of Illinois today.
The people and employers in Illinois want change. Now.
As Illinois lawmakers return to the State Capitol to address the state's crumbling fiscal house, Illinois has an opportunity to rebalance that equation. It is important that both parties work together on a path to progress.
That is why 2017 brings opportunity for a fresh start to reinvigorate the Illinois economy. If lawmakers take meaningful state policy steps to strengthen the state's economy, employers could again view Illinois as a more attractive state for jobs and investment. This, in turn, can generate more tax revenue for Illinois state government to help address its seemingly unending financial crises.
In 2017, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce is calling on state lawmakers to address five key state policy areas that can help accelerate the Illinois economy. They are:
º Enacting pro-growth economic reforms.
Illinois tax policy cannot be developed without regard to its effect on Illinois businesses, workers and our economy. Instead, any revenue discussions must be balanced by including corresponding pro-economic growth reforms to help employers and workers.
For example, the state could establish tax credits to help small businesses shoulder the cost of bringing on new employees. In addition, the state must immediately restore the Illinois Economic Development for a Growing Economy Tax Credit Program (the EDGE tax credit) that helps attract investment and job creation and retention in the state.
º Reforming Illinois' unfair workers' compensation system.
The current workers' compensation system in Illinois is tilted far out of balance. Employers throughout the state continue to call for reform of the system because it hurts the ability of Illinois employers to create – and even maintain – jobs here. Reforming the system can restore balance, reduce employers' costs for insurance, and no longer allow workers' compensation costs to be an obstacle to growing a business in Illinois.
º Rejecting anti-competitive proposals.
Lawmakers should do no further harm to our state's jobs climate. Proposals that pile more requirements on employers in our state adversely affect Illinois businesses and make our state less competitive with others. These shortsighted proposals would only move Illinois in the wrong direction and lawmakers must reject them.
º Working together on common sense regulatory issues.
When state Democrats and Republicans have worked together, they enacted important regulatory reforms for the state. In fact, the Illinois Chamber has led initiatives that reduce costs and make government more responsive. In 2017, legislators can finally modernize the state's outdated telecommunications law to drive more investment in modern technologies and networks to benefit those who rely on them: Illinois businesses, consumers and public safety officials.
º Focusing on education outcomes and workforce preparation.
While K-12 education funding gets most of the headlines out of Springfield, Illinois must avoid being dragged into an education debate that strictly focuses on who pays more, who pays less, whose communities receive more and whose receive less. Illinois must ask tougher questions if we are to improve our economy, respect taxpayers and live up to our obligations to the next generation.
State policymakers must be focused on improving educational outcomes and supporting students interested in careers that do not require a four-year college degree. Those goals must be in sight before we begin a new discussion about education funding, not the other way around.
These reforms re-establish balance and help Illinois become more competitive. They are not owned by a political party. Rather, they are supported by many members of both parties who are advocates for a stronger economy to help attract investment, jobs and revenue to help the state pay for the services it provides its citizens.
The Illinois Chamber believes in the greatness of our state. By enacting these policies in 2017, we believe Illinois can begin living up to its full economic potential. It's time to get the job done.
Todd Maisch is president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.