Sears deal now tied up in bigger tax package
SPRINGFIELD -- After months of debate on a package of tax incentives intended to keep Sears Holdings Corp. in Hoffman Estates, the fate of that deal could now rest with a new proposal that will affect businesses across the state.
The terms of Sears' deal are now being negotiated by legislators at the same time as proposals aimed at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and tax credits for small businesses and the poor.
Like Sears, CME has threatened to leave Illinois if it doesn't get some tax help. But Republicans and Gov. Pat Quinn have asked for other credits to be approved in exchange for helping the big companies.
All the tax ideas have been lumped together in an effort to find broader support, and Sears has been added to the list.
"There's just so many moving parts," said Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat. "And there's so much at stake."
How being linked to the broader package will affect Sears' interests is a question that could be answered when lawmakers return to Springfield on Tuesday.
"We're doing our part in our smaller universe," Crespo said.
The General Assembly is scheduled to be in session only through Thursday, then recesses for the year. Sears has said it intends to decide by the end of this year whether to stay in Illinois or accept incentives to move to another state.
Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, said he thinks the greater package has appeal for people with various tax concerns and should draw widespread support.
Still, "I don't know what everyone else is thinking about the package," Kotowski said.
Some lawmakers oppose giving tax breaks for specific companies because they argue doing so allows the state to pick winners and losers.
For Sears, the finer details of the negotiations remain fluid. But in general, Sears would get its current property tax deal with Hoffman Estates extended as well as job-creation tax credits from the state.
In addition, Community Unit District 300, based in Carpentersville, would get double the tax money from Sears that it gets now, though the school district has asked for more.
Sears and Hoffman Estates would have to give up some of what they're asking for to make it work.
"We'll see what comes out of this," said Hoffman Estates Mayor William McLeod.
District 300 has been the loudest critic of a plan to extend Sears' 20-year-old tax deal, and officials there say they won't comment on any of the proposals until they see specifics in writing.
They argue that the district could get $14 million in new money if Sears' deal isn't extended. But they've advanced a proposal suggesting they'd settle for less under the right circumstances.
District spokeswoman Allison Strupeck on Friday criticized the district's absence from recent talks.
"There has been literally no follow-up with District 300," Strupeck said.
Sears officials have been in contact with local lawmakers, but McLeod says he's watching Springfield to see what happens next.
"It's going to be what it's going to be," McLeod said.