Richardson: Politicians should remember Small Business Saturday

We hope Small Business Saturday was a rousing success for small and local businesses throughout Illinois.

There seems to be growing public sentiment that shopping small is an important way to support local communities. These feelings are entirely justified because thriving small businesses foster opportunities, connectivity, and economic development in neighborhoods across the state.

Politicians also talk about the value small businesses bring to communities and highlight the fact they drive our economy. The small business community should watch however, to see which legislators hold onto the Small Business Saturday spirit when they return to the state capitol in January.

We are thankful that Illinois policymakers delivered wins for small businesses on health insurance reform and government contracting during the last legislative session. This year, we are looking for politicians to provide small businesses more opportunities to procure tax incentives focused on growing our state's economy.

Illinois policymakers establish and secure resources for tax incentives while the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) often administers the programs that distribute these funds. Most of the programs, however, seem to be focused on large enterprises.

For instance, the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax program is one of the most prolific in our state. Through this program, big companies already flush with cash often secure massive tax incentives to move parts of their operations to Illinois or refrain from opening facilities in other states. While more than 90% of Illinois businesses have 50 or fewer employees, the vast majority of tax credits disbursed through the EDGE program do not make their way to small businesses. EDGE is simply unattainable for most small businesses.

The SBAC will be championing legislation that establishes incentive programs focused on small businesses. These programs should not require significant paperwork, be difficult to navigate or be so burdensome small businesses cannot utilize them. Small businesses should not be shut out from sharing in economic incentives simply because they lack the time or resources of larger companies. Politicians should prioritize supporting small businesses along with large companies.

One example of an incentive program that will support the small business community will establish a tax credit for businesses with fewer than 50 employees to offset rising property taxes. These tax credits will not be huge because the goal will be to support a large volume of small businesses as opposed to only select companies. However, the tax credits will be meaningful to small businesses struggling to absorb higher costs, including property taxes.

We urge politicians that support small businesses to take a critical look at tax incentive programs and ensure a fair share of incentives is available for small businesses.

We will be in Springfield in 2024 to remind policymakers to prioritize small businesses, which are the backbone of local communities, along with other interests when it comes to the allocation of state funds. Legislators that celebrate the small business community on Small Business Saturday should be vocal proponents for their interests in Springfield.

• Elliot Richardson is co-founder and president of the Small Business Advocacy Council.

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