A week after Gov. Pat Quinn outlined a budget proposal that would hike corporate taxes and eliminate certain tax breaks, about 30 Illinois business leaders urged him not to do anything to thwart future job creation. The governor, business officials and a handful of state lawmakers met for more than an hour Wednesday behind closed doors in Quinn's State Capitol office for a "jobs summit."


 

A week after Gov. Pat Quinn outlined a budget proposal that would hike corporate taxes and eliminate certain tax breaks, about 30 Illinois business leaders urged him not to do anything to thwart future job creation.

The governor, business officials and a handful of state lawmakers met for more than an hour Wednesday behind closed doors in Quinn's State Capitol office for a "jobs summit."

"We had a really good discussion, a dialogue. I'm sure not everybody is of the same mind, but I think it's healthy to have robust discussion about our economic crisis," Quinn, a Democrat, said afterward.

Critics of Quinn's budget plan have said the proposed tax increases would drive businesses out of Illinois and into other states or countries.

Illinois' business community could help ease the state's fiscal problems by putting people to work, said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, who participated in the meeting.

"But we need to be very careful about the policies that we put in place, that we're not counterproductive and have small and large businesses go under, lay people off (and) not be able to call people back," she said.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross added: "The key here is to make sure that Illinois businesses are vibrant, they're strong, they're working."

Quinn was attentive to what the business leaders had to say, said Tim Elder, director of corporate public affairs for Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc., which has announced 24,000 layoffs at its facilities worldwide, including thousands in Illinois.

The new governor "is dedicated, has good ideas, asks tough questions," Elder said. "The message we gave ... is that in the process of dealing with the immediate (budget crisis), don't do anything that's going to hurt the ability of the state to generate jobs in the future."

State government needs to make deeper budget cuts, as Caterpillar and other businesses have been forced to do, if it wants to solve the fiscal crisis while leaving Illinois positioned for "growth in the future," Elder said.

In the budget plan he unveiled last week, Quinn recommended eliminating a tax credit for research and development, getting rid of the "manufacturer's purchase credit" and taxing licensed computer software.

Elder said that closing those so-called corporate tax loopholes would present problems to Caterpillar and other businesses in Illinois.

"We are a software-driven company, and the constant feeding of new software products into our process is elemental to our ability to remain competitive," he said.

Rep. Jehan Gordon, D-Peoria, also attended the meeting and said while she agrees with Quinn that "shared sacrifice" will be needed to fix the state's problems, the solutions shouldn't put the state in long-term jeopardy.

Kim Maisch, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the business leaders called on Quinn not to make their already challenging situations even worse.

"There was one thread throughout the whole meeting, and it was kind of echoed from everybody: If you're not going to help us, don't hurt us. We are as fragile as all of those other taxpayers that you talk about," she said.

"Many businesses are on the brink of closing their doors," she said. "You raise our taxes, (and then) that's exactly what's going to happen. We're not crying wolf."

Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217)782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.