Lawmakers consider tax incentives for ADM, others

SPRINGFIELD — Lawmakers began considering a new set of tax incentives worth $92 million for Archer Daniels Midland Co., chemical distributor Univar and newly merged OfficeMax and Office Depot on Monday that includes a proposed satellite television tax.

The legislation — aimed at keeping companies in Illinois and creating jobs — recycles ideas considered this year after agribusiness giant ADM announced plans to move its Decatur headquarters. The plan calls for a 5 percent fee on direct broadcast satellite services, which is expected to generate $75 million annually.

Bill sponsor state Rep. Mike Zalewski said the idea was to make the proposal more “revenue neutral.”

Lawmakers could take up the proposal as early as Tuesday, when the House and Senate are poised to consider a major overhaul aimed at fixing Illinois’ roughly $100 billion pension crisis.

“For now pensions remains the No. 1 focus,” Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat, told reporters. “If there’s time left over to address other matters, we’ll go back to these issues.”

Opponents of such plans have criticized lawmakers for handing out tax breaks when Illinois struggles with major financial issues. In 2011, Quinn signed $100 million in tax breaks and incentives for Sears Holding Corp. and CME Group Inc., which operates the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade.

Still, state Rep. Frank Mautino, a Spring Valley Democrat, told committee members there was urgency to compete with Florida, where Office Depot is headquartered.

The bulk of the incentives, $63 million over 10 years, would go to Naperville-based OfficeMax and Office Depot. The company would have to keep its headquarters in Illinois, employ a minimum of 2,050 full-time employees and create 200 jobs in Illinois.

ADM officials haven’t detailed exactly where the company will relocate, but Chicago officials have said the city is in the running. Under the bill, the company would get $24 million in incentives over 20 years and keep a minimum of 200 full-time employees at a global headquarters in Illinois and hire at least 100 employees each year for five years consecutively, among other things.

“We’ll see how the legislature feels about it,” Greg Webb, ADM’s vice president of government relations, said after the hearing. “We’re cautiously optimistic but don’t get presumptuous.”

Univar, a chemical distributor which has headquarters in Redmond, Wash., will get about $5 million in incentives over a decade. The company wants to relocate to Downers Grove and has more than 200 jobs in Illinois. The legislation says the company must create nearly 70 new jobs and keep 100 full-time jobs.

It’s not the first time a satellite television tax has been proposed in Illinois. Lawmakers pushed a similar increase last year for schools, which only passed the Senate.

Officials with the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association spoke against the legislation Monday, claiming a tax would unfairly single out satellite television providers. Supporters included companies that provide cable television services who’ve said it would level the playing field since they’re similarly taxed. \

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