SPRINGFIELD-Two Democratic heavyweights put their clout behind a plan Tuesday to require publicly-traded companies in Illinois to disclose how much they're paying to the state in corporate income taxes.
In a move opposed by business groups, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) came together to push for the new disclosure requirement, which he said could be voted on later this week in the Senate.
"We've had corporations come to us and ask for tax breaks, and we've given them tax breaks. But we're doing so in a vacuum, not knowing what other companies are paying," Cullerton said at a Tuesday morning appearance to announce the push. "So that's why we're specifically addressing this concern in that bill."
Under the measure, publicly traded corporations that are headquartered in Illinois or do business here would have to disclose how much in corporate income taxes they pay to the state. That information would be turned over to the secretary of state, who would post it on the Internet two years after its disclosure.
Now, how much companies and individuals pay in Illinois income taxes is a closely held secret. State law bars the disclosure of such data.
"We're having the same discussion at the federal level. Is it a loophole? Is it a legitimate deduction? Is it an exemption that's going to help the economy? Is it going to make us stronger or weaker?" Currie said.
"I think when we get information about who is taking what exemptions, deductions and so forth and how it affects their bottom line, we'll be in a better position to make tax policy," she said.
But a top business leader voiced opposition to the plan and noted how the irony that Illinois lawmakers aren't willing to impose the same type of disclosure requirement on themselves. Tax records are not something state officials must disclose in their statements of economic interest.
"If transparency is a good idea, why don't legislators, for example, have to disclose. If it's such a great idea, maybe start with the General Assembly first," said Mark Denzler, chief operating officer for the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.
"This is confidential tax information we don't' think should be released publicly. These do have real-life applications for these companies that are making decisions in their tax policy. Other companies, when they look at it, will look and see what a company is doing, where they're spending resources, and it does have a competitive effect on them," he said.