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Corporate welfare now business as usual : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Corporate welfare now business as usual

As we reported last week, the Kendall County Board voted 9-1 July 1 to support a 50 percent property tax abatement requested by the William Wrigley, Jr. Company for a 146,000 square foot addition it is planning at its plant on Ill. Route 47 on the north side of Yorkville.

The abatement would be good for five years and cost local governmental agencies like the Yorkville School District several thousands of dollars in annual property tax revenues.

That's the bad news. The good news is Wrigley plans to add an estimated 75 full-time jobs when the addition is completed and they shift the manufacturer of their popular Skittles candy to the plant.

Board member John Purcell cast the lone negative ballot on the motion to approve the tax abatement. Prior to voting, Purcell questioned and voiced objection to the county granting the tax abatement for a large employer while the county's many smaller companies continue to pay a full share of their property taxes.

"Do we offer tax abatements for all businesses or all businesses that expand or only those that we deem it makes sense to do so for?" Purcell asked.

"I guess, the latter," Jeff Wilkins, the county's administrator, responded.

"OK, so we pick and choose our corporate welfare. So we pick and choose who we offer it to-the person offering five new jobs isn't deemed important enough to give tax abatements to?" Purcell asked.

We certainly share Purcell's frustration but, very unfortunately, someone left the barn door open on tax breaks for large corporations years ago. A recent New York Times investigation estimated that states, counties and cities gave up more than $80 billion in tax breaks to companies representing every corner of the corporate world including technology firms and big-box retail chains in 2012.

We certainly don't like this new world of business economics. We would much prefer that every business that locates in Kendall County would recognize they have a responsibility to the community to pay their full fair share of taxes from the day they open. But, frankly, that's just being na´ve. As long as folks in the next town, county, state or country continue to offer companies tax breaks, look for the corporate welfare bandwagon to roll merrily along.

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