SPRINGFIELD | Less than nine months after floating a plan to pay down the state's massive backlog of bills by closing corporate loopholes, Gov. Pat Quinn has come up with another use for the money.
With Illinois' $31 billion road, bridge and school construction program coming to an end next year, the Democrat from Chicago now says he wants to pay for a new building program using revenue generated by ending an unidentified number of business tax breaks.
"There are some loopholes in the tax code, corporate loopholes that don't really forward economic growth," Quinn said last week in an end-of-the-year interview with the Associated Press.
Quinn may be eyeing a different use for the potential windfall because the state is slowly chipping away at its mountain of debt.
"The overall trend is heading in the right direction," Quinn's assistant budget chief Abdon Pallasch said Monday.
Although the governor didn't offer details, it isn’t the first time businesses tax breaks have been targeted as a source for revenue.
For example, now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich floated a corporate loophole proposal in 2004 to generate cash to close a budget gap.
In 2011, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, suggested using revenue generated by closing loopholes to lower the corporate tax rate.
Labor unions have argued for years that changing the corporate tax code could generate money to help lower the state's pension debt.
And, in March, Quinn outlined a plan in March to pay down the state’s backlog of bills by $445 million by closing three so-called loopholes.
Business groups have successfully fended off many of the proposed changes, saying the proposals would stifle job creation.
Business groups are calling the latest proposal a "disappointment."
"It's a really bad idea," said Todd Maisch, vice president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. "Unfortunately, this was the Blagojevich approach to funding government."
The state's current construction program – known as Illinois Jobs Now! – began in 2010. It is funded by the proceeds of legalized video gambling and higher taxes on alcohol and other products.
The governor, who is running for reelection in 2014, has been crisscrossing the state in recent months announcing projects being funded by the $31 billion program.