The reason why involves everything from a needy governor and labor leaders who were convinced to be pragmatic rather than greedy, to some legislative discipline and plain old good luck. And the impact on the state and its economy could be significant.
The first measure gives Gov. JB Pritzker a prize that governors of states such as Texas, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan have long enjoyed and venture capitalist Pritzker badly wanted. That’s a huge “deal closing fund”—initially staked at $400 million—that Pritzker can dip into to bring across the finish line potential industrial development deals that are close but not done.
It’s no secret that measure—which also makes it substantially easier to grant tax credits in another state incentive program, Edge—is aimed at expanding the state’s nascent electric-vehicle industry and particularly at convincing Stellantis to reconfigure its soon-to-close Belvidere plant to EV production, perhaps with an adjoining battery plant.
Two earlier waves of incentives pushed by Pritzker proved inadequate. He’s had to watch as new EV plants, chip plants, battery producers, et al. went to Texas, Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, etc., and not Illinois. “The governor has kind of staked his (business) reputation on this,” says a Springfield insider. “They’re desperate to get a big deal.”
Ordinarily, that might not be enough in Springfield, which has morphed into a progressive Democratic stronghold. But organized labor, a key Democratic Constituency, got involved. And hordes of progressive lawmakers who normally might balk at the idea of big “corporate giveaways” were distracted in the just-ended lame-duck legislative session, busy pushing to ban assault weapons, expand abortion rights and the like.
In other words, any potential opposition never had a chance to solidify. And when members of the Legislature’s powerful Black Caucus cleared their throats, the Pritzker folks added a clause banning any state incentives to move the Chicago Bears to Arlington Heights from Soldier Field, which just happens to be in the district of Caucus Chairman Rep. Kam Buckner . Game, set, match, as key lawmakers such as House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Senate President Don Harmon and House Revenue Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, put the pieces together.
Now, Pritzker—having received absolutely everything he requested—must deliver. I hear some big fish are very close to being reeled in. And he has to deliver without wasting the EV fund money and appearing to play political favorites—problems that long have bested Chicago mayors in distributing funds from their somewhat similar tax increment financing (TIF ) honeypot.
The other bill passed last night effectively extends statewide measures that now apply only in Chicago and suburban Cook County that guarantee workers a week a year of paid leave for illness, family matters or other personal needs.
The measure was introduced long ago, but it arrived at passage stage only in the past few days as part of a deal crafted by its sponsor, the very hard-working Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria.
When union activists pushed to require seven and not five days of paid leave, Gordon-Booth held firm. Ditto when they tried to stack the state’s five days on top of Chicago’s and Cook County’s five days in their turf. As a result, several key business groups cleared the way for passage by agreeing not to oppose the legislation, hoping that it will forestall more costly local measures.
The bill ended up passing by a wide margin without any of the histrionics that occurred when the Chicago law was adopted. As a result, people who badly need the right to bury a loved one, care for a sick kid or get over an illness themselves will be able to do so without losing the income to feed their family.
It is remarkable what people actually can get done when they use their brains and get reasonable. Ergo the anatomy of an, at least, little Springfield miracle. May they soon apply the lesson to other issues.