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Tougher review of tax breaks considered

State Sen. NapoleHarris left  talks with MarvKeeling Chicago SouthlChamber Regional Consensus Lunch Tinley Park ConventiCenter Tinley Park IL Monday

State Sen. Napoleon Harris, left, talks with Marvin Keeling at the Chicago Southland Chamber Regional Consensus Lunch at the Tinley Park Convention Center in Tinley Park, IL, on Monday, February 11, 2013. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 13, 2013 6:21AM



Three new state senators representing the Southland told business leaders Monday they would favor a more stringent review of how the state hands out tax incentives to companies planning to expand or threatening to leave Illinois.

Talking to members of the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce meeting in Tinley Park, the legislators said better oversight is needed to ensure that businesses given tax help live up to promises of job creation and retention.

Saying it’s an “area that we probably need to look at,” Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) said he was unsure whether the “proper follow up” was being done for companies receiving tax incentive packages. Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor) said he’d like to be able “to take the money back” if job goals aren’t achieved.

Speaking during the informal panel discussion, Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Orland Hills) said another issue that’s a major concern among business owners is workers’ compensation, noting that Illinois companies are saddled with rates “three times the cost of any state in the country.”

Cunningham, a former state representative, said there’s no shortage of “big, substantive problems out there” that legislators are facing, such as finding solutions to meeting Illinois’s massive long-term pension obligations.

“We don’t know if the pension problem will be solved, how it will be solved,” he said.

As lawmakers tackle some of the more pressing issues and begin to look at the state’s budget for the next fiscal year, they’ll have to make tough decisions about paying for programs and services in an environment of stagnant or shrinking revenue, Harris said.

“Cuts are going to happen to some magnitude,” he said. “We have to do them responsibly.”



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