OfficeMax tax debate so far not like Sears

The great state debate a couple years back over whether to give big tax breaks to Sears Holdings Corp. to keep the retail giant in Hoffman Estates was a long and occasionally bitter one.

The same hasn't played out with the peaceful talks over whether to give $40 million or so in income tax help to Naperville's OfficeMax as its merger with Office Depot plays out.

Office Depot is based in Florida, and the office supply giant formed by the merger likely will at some point decide whether to put its headquarters in Florida or DuPage County.

State Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, has come up with a tentative plan to offer tax breaks if the company keeps at least 2,000 employees in the suburbs and makes some building improvements.

He says it helps that some of the OfficeMax brass have raised their kids locally and like it here.

“The OfficeMax executives definitely want to stay in Illinois,” Cullerton said.

The same might be true, though, of the Office Depot executives in Florida.

Add the availability of infrastructure and workers a huge retail company needs, and its final decision might not lean completely on taxes.

“The tax thing is only one factor,” Cullerton said.

What now?The OfficeMax tax breaks plan hasn't been a hot topic among lawmakers yet, but Cullerton hopes it'll come up the next time they return to Springfield #8212; maybe in August to talk about public employee pensions again.State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat and House Speaker Michael Madigan's No. 2, said there's no agreed-to way to move forward. #8220;There is no clear plan at this point,#8221; she said.Currie suggested lawmakers need to proceed with caution. After all, the state wouldn't want to give up too many tax breaks to a company that might be inclined to stay in DuPage County anyway.#8220;It would not be good policy to let ourselves be used as leverage,#8221; she said.More heat on O'HalloranMore suburban lawmakers have signed onto state Rep. David Harris' call for Metra board Chairman Brad O'Halloran to step down.As of Thursday afternoon, Republican state Reps. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, Barbara Wheeler of Crystal Lake, Ed Sullivan of Mundelein, Sandra Pihos of Glen Ellyn and Tom Morrison of Palatine have become official backers of Harris' call.Harris' resolution in Springfield asking O'Halloran doesn't carry the weight of law, but his growing list of co-sponsors is just another source of pressure on Metra's board.Where's a Duckworth challenger?In the Illinois 10th District race for Congress, the rematch between Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield and Republican Bob Dold of Kenilworth produced nearly $900,000 in fundraising in the second quarter of this year.In the 11th District race, a three-way Republican primary is shaping up for a chance to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville.In the 8th District held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates: Crickets.So far, there's not a lot #8212; if any #8212; out-in-the-open Republican activity about a Republican challenge to Duckworth.Who will emerge?And when?And would a relatively late start make a difference?We'll see.How they votedRepublican U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Winfield was the only suburban lawmaker to vote to limit the personal data that can be collected by the National Security Agency this week.Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam voted to keep the program, as did Duckworth, Foster, Schneider and Democratic U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston. 453659Tom Cullerton

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