SPRINGFIELD — House Republicans are calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to unfreeze the Blue Collar Jobs Act ahead of his annual budget address Wednesday to help Illinois attract companies and create jobs.
"Nothing helps the middle class more than creating good paying jobs," said state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego. "That's precisely what the Blue Collar Jobs Act does. It sends a message that Illinois is open for business."
The Blue Collar Jobs Act was a bipartisan package passed in 2019 with Pritzker's support that creates construction tax incentives for businesses and scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 this year, but Pritzker delayed it citing the pandemic's revenue losses.
"Right now, we cannot afford to expand tax breaks to businesses that already receive tax breaks," Pritzker said in a statement last month.
Republicans argue the pandemic is the reason Illinois needs the package to take effect as a way to create jobs and boost the economy.
"The best stimulus check we can give our citizens are steady, good paying jobs," said state Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield.
A statement from the governor's office on Tuesday about his budget proposal said the governor's office was forecasting a $3 billion deficit in fiscal year 2022, which is $2.5 billion less than previously forecasted. Pritzker is not planning to seek a tax hike or spending increase but wants to work to close corporate tax loopholes.
Wheeler pointed out the Blue Collar Jobs Act is not a corporate tax loophole because it doesn't release the tax credits to the company until the construction project is finished, limiting the risk to the state.
State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said Pritzker knows the benefits of the act because he is making a pitch to the New York Stock Exchange to bring their primary data center to the western suburbs with tax incentives for building data centers. On Wednesday, Crain's Chicago Business reported the governor's administration also wanted to make a pitch to the NYSE to move their headquarters to Illinois.
"We want to work with the governor to put job creation first," Murphy said.
Keicher pointed to last year's announcement by Facebook to build an $800 million data center in DeKalb as evidence companies want to move to Illinois and take advantage of the Blue Collar Jobs Act and Pritzker's commitment to bring jobs to the state to boost the economy.
"Those reforms are showing significant benefits and they should be maximized to bring more good paying jobs to Illinois," Keicher said.
He added the jobs brought to Illinois by economic growth initiatives like the Blue Collar Jobs Act can help Pritzker deal with budget problems.
"(Bringing jobs to Illinois) will increase the state's current tax base and dramatically help alleviate our pressures on the state budget," Keicher said.
While Republicans are set on keeping tax breaks to brings jobs to the state to help the economy grow, Pritzker is set to reevaluate corporate tax breaks to deal with the budget deficit.
"The recently announced budget cuts along with these new rollbacks of corporate tax breaks are just the first steps in this budget process. More will be necessary. We will need to scrutinize and potentially roll back other corporate tax breaks — including those that have been on the books for many years," Pritzker said.