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updated: 12/16/2011 6:55 PM

Quinn's signature seals deal for Sears, CME Group

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  • Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a series of tax breaks for Sears into law.

       Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a series of tax breaks for Sears into law.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn's signature Friday on a law to give tax breaks to Sears Holdings Corp. and CME Group proved to be the final step to keep both companies in Illinois.

"We look forward to remaining in Illinois and building on our long and rich history here," Kimberly Freely, spokeswoman for Hoffman Estates-based Sears, said in a statement.

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Quinn's signature came with little fanfare -- just an email sent to reporters -- but local officials that had been pushing for the tax breaks for months were more animated.

"I'm exuberant," said Hoffman Estates Mayor William McLeod.

In addition, CME Group officials said for the first time that they'll also stay in Illinois as a result of the new law giving them tax relief. The company is based in Chicago and has its major data center in Aurora.

"We will continue to call the great state of Illinois and city of Chicago the risk management capital of the world," Executive Chairman Terry Duffy said in a statement.

The legislation also includes various tax breaks that can be used by businesses across the state.

The success of the tax breaks package comes after months of intense debate over how -- or whether -- it should be done. The legislature went through several versions and false starts before agreeing on the law Quinn signed Monday.

Critics contended that a state that can't pay its bills on time shouldn't be giving tax breaks away to profitable companies. And some lawmakers had to deal with the sometimes politically tricky idea of raising income taxes on both individual and businesses earlier this year and then giving tax help out to a select few months later.

Quinn on Friday didn't sign legislation that was politically tied to these tax breaks that would give income tax credits to all Illinois residents and help the working poor in particular. The delay could give the governor an opportunity to direct more attention to that part of the deal in a later bill-signing event.

When he spoke to reporters earlier this week, Quinn sought to emphasize the working poor credits, which he insisted be part of the overall deal before he'd approve tax relief for businesses.

Quinn's action Friday ends a process that started in May with Sears threatening to leave Illinois if it didn't get an extension of an existing property tax deal with Hoffman Estates, as well as the same kind of state income tax breaks given to Motorola Mobility in Libertyville and Navistar in Warrenville.

Sears gets both under this plan. The property tax breaks are worth up to $125 million over 15 years. The income tax relief is worth up to $150 million over 10 years.

State Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat who helped negotiate Sears' terms, said he was pleased to see the company decide to stay after lawmakers acted.

"I'm happy to say the Sears folks kept their word," he said.

The extension of the company's local deal with Hoffman Estates was opposed initially by Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300, which stood to take in millions of dollars more per year in property taxes if the Sears deal expired.

Eventually, though, the school district was assured $3 million more a year, along with some other assurances, and pulled its opposition.

Lawmakers approved the tax breaks this week, setting Quinn up for his announcement Friday.

McLeod said he saw Quinn last night at the governor's birthday party and gave him a Hoffman Estates pen to sign the legislation with.

"There are quite a few people that work at Sears who are very relieved," McLeod said.

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