CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich accepted the endorsement today from the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce for his Tax Fairness Plan, which is an ambitious proposal to help small businesses by providing greater access to affordable healthcare, improving education and relieving their tax burden by asking big businesses to pay their fair share. This innovative plan closes corporate loopholes and gives working families the relief they deserve, while helping small business owners have better access to quality healthcare for their employees and themselves.
“For too long, it’s been the middle class and working families of Illinois that have shouldered more and more of the tax burden. And while they have paid more, the wealthiest corporations in our state have paid less and less. It’s a system that for decades has been unfair to the small and medium-sized companies across the state that don’t have fancy accountants or powerful lobbyists. We have the unique opportunity to make the most fundamental change that will continue to put the middle class and working families at the center of who we fight to help. And we are so proud that the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce is joining our fight to make this plan a reality,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
While the Blagojevich Administration has expanded access to healthcare to more than 560,000 working families with Illinois’ FamilyCare and All Kids programs, access to quality healthcare continues to be a concern for the 1.4 million adults statewide that remain uninsured today, especially for many small business owners who have been unable to provide healthcare for their employees. The cost of healthcare for business has been growing five times faster than the rate of inflation, and the number of firms offering health benefits to their employees has fallen by at least 8 percent since 2000.
“The Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce and its membership embraces the ideas of the Governor's plan to invest in Illinois families by providing access to affordable healthcare for small businesses and all Illinois residents, increasing funding for our schools, and creating a tax system that is fair for businesses and families alike. The State Black Chamber of Commerce agrees with the Governor that ‘the need is clear and the time is now,’ and that is why we are committed to working with the Governor's office to get the General Assembly's support so that we may create a fair and equitable system that levels the playing field, reduces
the burden on middle class families, helps small and mid-size businesses become more competitive and lessens the tax burden on all Illinois residents,” Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Larry Ivory said.
To address this crisis, Gov. Blagojevich has proposed Illinois Covered – a plan that will ensure all 1.4 million uninsured have access to quality, affordable healthcare, and that will help many middle-income families and small businesses that are currently enrolled in health insurance plans save thousands a year on healthcare costs. One of the components of the Governor’s plan includes Illinois Covered Choice, which creates an affordable and comprehensive insurance plan that anyone without employer-sponsored health insurance in Illinois can purchase. This statewide pool of coverage will offer Illinoisans lower and stable rates. Business groups will be able to connect many of their members with this new affordable insurance, and small business owners can also purchase this product on behalf of their employees.
Illinois Covered Rebate will lower premiums for moderate to middle-income Illinoisans ($20,000-$80,000 for a family of four) to help them afford their health insurance. The rebate will vary based on income, and those with lower incomes would get a larger rebate.
Many large corporations pay little or nothing in corporate income taxes, and they are not paying their fair share to meet the state’s ongoing infrastructure, education, healthcare and public safety needs. Gov. Blagojevich’s plan takes historic steps to change the Illinois tax structure – one of the most regressive and unfair to working families in the nation. According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, 37 of the 99 ‘Fortune 100’ companies that filed taxes in Illinois paid no state income taxes, despite the fact that they averaged $1.2 billion in sales during 2004. On average, 48 percent of corporations that generated $50 million or more in annual sales in Illinois paid no income taxes from 1997 through 2004.
The Governor’s Tax Fairness Plan implements a Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) that has been embraced by many economists because of its broad base and low rates. States including Washington, Delaware and Hawaii have had a GRT for years, and, recently, Ohio and Texas have adopted a form of the tax. The GRT will only apply to businesses that make more than $1 million each year, which means 75 percent of all businesses in Illinois will be exempt. The GRT will tax service industries at a low 1.8 percent rate, while manufacturers, construction, retail and wholesale companies will be taxed at an even lower .5 percent. Exports will not be taxed. The plan also mitigates costs being passed on to consumers by excluding certain goods, such as retail food and pharmaceuticals.
Gov. Blagojevich has a proven track record in support of small businesses and entrepreneurs across the state, and he has been committed to providing the resources needed to help this critical sector of our economy expand and succeed. In 2003, the Governor created the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network (IEN) to strengthen the state’s capacity to develop small businesses into market successes and help entrepreneurship act as a more dynamic engine of growth. Over the past four years, through the IEN, the Governor has invested nearly $47 million that has helped small companies generate almost $2.56 billion in government contracts and international sales and secure more than $525 million in financing.
Of this total, the IEN has helped minority-owned businesses generate about $313 million in government contracts and secure more than $73 million in financing. Additionally, the Network has helped women-owned businesses generate more than $602 million in government contracts and secure almost $89 million in financing. The Network has provided counseling and training to more than 160,500 clients across the state.
The 18 Entrepreneurship Centers statewide, which make up one vital component of the IEN, provide expertise and grant funding to entrepreneurs and small businesses to help generate greater growth. The e-centers have awarded more than $2.4 million in matching challenge grants to 446 companies, which has leveraged another $267 million in investments.
Additionally, Gov. Blagojevich has helped Illinois businesses improve their bottom-lines by investing in the skills of our greatest asset across the state. Through the Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP), Gov. Blagojevich has invested $62.5 million to advance the skills of nearly 236,000 Illinois workers at almost 6,000 companies over the last four years.
The $6 million Employment Opportunities Grant Program, which is beginning in Cook County, will expand the number of people in historically underrepresented populations who enter and complete building trades apprenticeship programs and achieve journey-level status within building trades unions. This will assist with the progression of obtaining employment and better wages in this field.
The Illinois Statewide Minority Business Loan Fund is a pilot program to help minority-owned businesses across the state have better access to loan funding. The fund is a public-private partnership between Chicago Community Ventures (CCV), who will manage the fund; Fifth Third Bank Chicago, who has joined the partnership by also committing $1 million; and the Illinois Finance Authority, who is providing the $1 million on behalf of the state. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is also providing $50,000 to assist with staffing needs to oversee the fund, and Fifth Third Bank is contributing an additional $50,000 for CCV to provide one-on-one counseling to minority-owned businesses.
The Governor has also proposed a $100 million Illinois Community Assets Fund, which would be a business development and investment fund that will increase access to capital for businesses in idea-rich, but financially underserved communities throughout Illinois. This new Fund will provide grants to third party financial intermediaries to operate loan and micro-loan programs in urban and rural areas where capital has been lacking. It will also provide a more flexible tool for business infrastructure needs.
Since January 2004, Illinois has gained 173,600 jobs, which is best in the Midwest. Illinois led the nation in new job growth in January 2007 with 19,100 new jobs. In 2006, Illinois gained 71,000 new jobs, which is the best calendar year gain since 2000. Over the last 4 years, from January 2003 to December 2006, Illinois had the second largest unemployment rate drop in the nation. The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Illinois Department of Employment Security compiled these statistics.