CHICAGO - Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich accepted the endorsement today from the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC) 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 everybody to pay their fair share. This innovative plan gives working families the relief they deserve, while helping small business owners have better access to quality healthcare for their employees and themselves. The IHCC’s endorsement comes the day before Gov. Blagojevich sets off on a four-day tour of the state to build support for his budget plan.
“We’ve been working with and for small businesses every day, but the last four years have made it clear their top issues are dramatically escalating healthcare costs and a quality workforce. On top of that, small businesses and working families are being squeezed and forced to shoulder more and more of the tax burden because they don’t have fancy accountants or powerful lobbyists. This isn’t fair, and this is costing our economy jobs. But we have an opportunity to level the playing field in Illinois and make long-term investments in healthcare and education that are going to make our economy even stronger, put more people to work and protect our working families. And we are so proud that the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce shares these priorities and will help continue taking our case to the people and to the General Assembly,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
IHCC has developed into one of the most successful membership business organizations in the country. Originally incorporated in 1990 as the Mexican-American Chamber of Commerce, IHCC’s mission is to provide resources and advocate on issues that affect the Hispanic business community. IHCC is the principal voice of the Hispanic business community in Illinois and is committed to increasing the participation of Hispanic businesses in all commercial and economic areas. IHCC is also an advocate and supporter of policies that further the broad economic interests of its members in the local, national and international arenas. In the last few years, IHCC’s membership has increased by more than 1,000 percent, reflecting the continued, outstanding growth of the Hispanic business community. It currently has more than 1,200 members.
“The lack of affordable healthcare hurts productivity and growth, which costs businesses billions. And small businesses are too often paying that heavy price. Gov. Blagojevich and I believe that the solution to this complex problem is based on a simple idea: everybody must share in the burden, so everyone can share in the benefits. This Tax Fairness Plan takes the burden off small businesses and asks everybody to contribute more for education, provides healthcare to hard working families and helps create better jobs. We will continue working closely with members of the General Assembly to make this happen as soon as possible,” IHCC President/CEO Omar Duque said.
While the Blagojevich Administration has expanded access to healthcare to more than 560,000 working families through programs like FamilyCare and All Kids, 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.
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 to provide coverage to 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 $2 million each year, which means 85 percent of all businesses in Illinois will be exempt. The GRT will tax service industries at a low 1.95 percent rate, while manufacturers, construction, retail and wholesale companies will be taxed at an even lower .85 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 Illinois Hispanic Entrepreneurship Center at the IHCC is one of 18 Entrepreneurship Centers statewide, which make up a vital component of the IEN, and provides 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 also providing $1 million.
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.
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.