Gov. Bruce Rauner’s decision to approve $100 million in corporate tax breaks is drawing fire from critics after the Republican six days ago yanked funding for a series of social programs, including funerals for the indigent, immigration, autism and HIV services.
His administration says the business incentives — for companies such as eBay, CapitalOne, CDW and SAC Wireless — were promised under Gov. Pat Quinn and will not affect this year’s budget.
“These commitments were made by the Quinn administration and were allowed to continue because they have no impact on the current Fiscal Year,” spokeswoman Lyndsey Walters said in an emailed statement.
Quinn’s administration had already committed to giving out those tax incentives, but paperwork was still being processed, Rauner’s office said. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity reviewed the incentives and signed off on releasing the money.
News of the corporate tax breaks spurred a petition on Move.org.
“Giving tax breaks to big corporations while slashing millions from the services our most vulnerable citizens rely upon is beyond the pale,” said Aviva Bowen, spokeswoman for Illinois Federation of Teachers. “Cutting funding for autism, homelessness, parks, and after-school programs before asking the most wealthy to chip in a dime is completely out of touch with what Illinois wants or deserves.”
On Friday, Rauner announced $26 million in immediate cuts to social services, including $7 million for funerals and burials for public aid recipients, funds for immigrant services, autism services and other programs.
The state’s largest immigrant-rights group, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said Rauner had “severed the lifeline for our communities” and planned to spend upcoming days phone banking, urging community members to call Rauner to protest the cuts to immigration.
“With little apparent concern for consequences, by totally eliminating immigrant services, Governor Rauner has severed the lifeline for our communities,” Veronica Castro, the coalition’s organizing director said in a statement. “Over the last decade these services have helped nearly 100,000 immigrants to become American citizens, and tens of thousands of others to get health care and other temporary assistance as they work to improve their lives and contribute further to the state.”
On Thursday afternoon, state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, Tweeted: “Shared sacrifice @GovRauner? Good Friday $26 million cut: epilepsy, drug prevention, but $100 million ok’d for biz tax breaks. #Priorities.”
Rauner’s administration has defended its move to cut various grant funding saying it had to fill a $1.6 billion gaping budget hole for fiscal year 2015 that it inherited.
The corporate incentive money is part of the state’s Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, a program tapped to entice businesses with offers to relocate to remain in Illinois. Rauner has vowed to grow the business climate in the state, but during his campaign for governor had said the EDGE program needed to be overhauled.
The governor’s office said on Thursday that DCEO continues to meet with companies on all incentive requests, but right now only considering financial incentives for companies that promise to create jobs — not just retain them. Rauner’s office adds that the administration is evaluating its long-term policy on incentives.