Illinois offering big tax breaks to lure Amazon HQ

Governor Rauner signed a law Monday that restores his power to give big tax breaks and other financial incentives to companies like Amazon.

The internet retail giant plans to build a big new tech campus that might eventually employ 50,000. But, in return, it wants billions of dollars from whichever city and state it eventually chooses.

Chicago and Illinois are sending a joint team Tuesday morning to Seattle, Amazon's home town.

Site selection magazine has ranked Chicago no. 1 in America for four consecutive years for attracting corporate relocations and expansions, indicating the city could be a strong contender for Amazon's new complex.

Gov. Rauner's not so sure, pointing as he often does to one that got away: General Electric's headquarters that went to Boston.

“I worked with the mayor to bring general electric here. We were their first choice. But they said, ‘Governor, we hope you're not going to do to us what Connecticut’s been doing.’ I couldn't prove that we weren't going to do that to them,” Rauner said.

Also a factor: Boston gave GE the biggest financial incentives in Massachusetts history, a reported $151 million for 800 jobs. And there are now reports GE may actually bring fewer jobs. That would violate terms of Illinois’ new edge tax credit law Rauner signed today. A company failing to deliver on job promises here would have to return some of the state tax dollars it received.

In Seattle Tuesday, a bipartisan, city-state delegation plans to study Amazon's current home, which will help the city bid for its new complex.

“That means we as a state and we as a city of Chicago need to work together cooperatively. And we're doin' that,” Rauner said.

The city and state have to decide by the middle of next month how much they're going to give amazon in terms of tax breaks and other incentives. The state of Wisconsin just approved $3 billion in giveaways to a Chinese company that's bringing a lot fewer jobs than Amazon is promising.

The city of Gary placed an ad in the New York Times with an open letter addressed to Amazon's CEO.  It acknowledged the steel city's bid might seem "far-fetched," but noted it was once far-fetched to think of a man traveling to the moon.

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