SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate on Wednesday approved a plan to require some companies doing business in Illinois to reveal income tax information to the public.
Lawmakers voted 30-27 in favor of the proposal, Senate Bill 282. It now goes to the Illinois House for consideration.
Bill supporters, including a variety of citizen groups, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Democratic Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, say disclosure would help lawmaker and the public evaluate the state’s tax code and its handling of tax breaks and incentives for business.
Critics, meanwhile, say it is anti-business legislation that presumes corporate wrongdoing.
Cullerton on Tuesday said he does not consider the proposal “business unfriendly” and noted that Illinois’ temporary income tax hike expires on Jan. 1, 2015.
If Senate Bill 282 becomes law, corporations will be opening their books to the state just in time for the expiration – and just as the next governor will be on the hunt for new money to work with.
“We are just saying that you should disclose information about your taxes. For publicly traded companies, they already disclose a lot of information to their shareholders. Why not to us here in the state of Illinois?” Cullerton said. “The legislators that are going to be making these decisions about our taxes, we have to have this information.”
During a Senate debate on the bill Wednesday, Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from Palatine, urged Cullerton to rework the proposal “so that we can actually have something that makes some sense.”
“The idea that we’re going to take private taxpayer information in this manner at its core sends the wrong message,” Murphy said.
Cullerton told senators he agreed that Illinois has a problem with its reputation when it comes to its business climate.
“That’s why I’m more than happy to say this is not meant to make us more business unfriendly. We have a lot of reasons why companies should be here. We do have a great state and we have a lot of companies that are flourishing here,” he said.
“This should not be taken as an anti-business measure. This is a measure that will give us enough information to decide how to rewrite our tax policy. It’s designed to make it easier for us to become informed as to how our tax policy is working and whether we should adopt another tax policy.”
Sen. Chris Lauzen questioned why the bill addresses only publicly traded companies and not all companies doing business in Illinois.
“If it’s true that the purpose of this is to set tax policy, I would hope that it would be more comprehensive information gathered in that process,” Lauzen said, noting that he fears businesses will view the proposal as punitive and drive them out of state.
“This is an anti-business, anti-employment law” that “undermines the traditional notion of taxpayer privacy and business confidentiality in Illinois,” Lauzen said, adding: “The bottom line on is this, no matter what we say in this chamber, I can assure you the people paying taxes and financing all our government spending consider this punitive.”