A lot of discussion has been given recently to several large businesses in Illinois who have gone to the Legislature and asked for tax incentives. As someone who represents 11,000 small businesses in Illinois, I don’t fault them for trying and for following the rules and the laws passed by the Illinois General Assembly.
However, it strikes me that if Illinois lawmakers focused on making Illinois a better place to do business all employers would benefit as would those desperately seeking employment.
For starters let’s not believe the rhetoric that lawmakers “reformed” workers’ compensation – the biggest cost driver for big and small businesses in Illinois. While the bill that passed in 2011 was a start, legislative leaders must acknowledge that we have to reform the causation standard so Saturday afternoon softball injuries don’t turn into Monday morning workers’ compensation claims.
Our tax code is also under assault. Illinois’ flat income tax is one of the few highlights in our state. The temporary income tax hike is slated to be phased out – let it. And, let’s resist the urge to become a state with a graduated income tax that would hinder small business owners from growing and expanding their businesses.
Finally, I hope lawmakers resist the popular and political urge to bring a $10-$15 minimum wage to Illinois. We already have the fourth highest minimum wage in the country, yet we continue to top the ranks of highest poverty levels and highest unemployment rates. How does raising the wage even higher make any sense at all?
The fact of the matter is that small business is the engine that drives our economy. Small businesses represent 98 percent of Illinois employers and employ 48 percent of its private-sector workforce, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
States fall all over themselves competing for those big manufacturing jobs, but if our elected officials would focus on an overall healthy economic arena the jobs will not only stay, but they will come to Illinois, too.
When our legislators return to Springfield in January, we hope legislative leaders will pay more attention to small businesses—the largest, most innovative, and fastest growing job creators in our state—and support them by focusing on reforms that prove Illinois is a good place to do business for everybody.
Kim Clarke Maisch is the Illinois state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.