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Burned by Sears?

Illinois lawmakers are up in arms about Sears’ announcement to close 120 Sears and Kmart stores nationally.

It’s hard to see a company that Illinois taxpayers just gave $150 million in tax breaks start laying people off and closing stores.

That being said, Sears is not actually breaking the agreement that it has with the State of Illinois. The $150 million tax break is contingent on Sears keeping 4,250 jobs at their headquarters in Hoffman Estate. The agreement says nothing about preventing stores from closing in Illinois.

Here is an excerpt from the Sun Times article that ran today:

[Ira] Silverstein [D-Chicago] initially said lawmakers who approved the package weren’t at fault, but when asked whether language should have been written in to the measure to keep the stores open, he conceded.

“Hindsight’s 20-20 — you’re 100 percent right,” Sliverstein said. “We don’t have that much control. But when we give a package of incentives like this to try and keep a corporation here in Illinois they should at least tell us what they’re going to do — not so much in the far future, but in the near future. We passed this package . . . two weeks ago and all the sudden, they pull this on us.”

He said this is a lesson learned for future tax incentive packages.

“I think we’re going to have to look with a little more scrutiny,” Silverstein said.

Hindsight is 20-20, but foresight is even more powerful. Before legislators start giving away our tax dollars, they should demand full transparency and access to all of the information they need to make an informed decision.

And ultimately, lawmakers should really think about whether spending $150 million on 4,250 jobs is worth it. It’s starting to sound like they don’t.

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About Celeste Meiffren

Celeste Meiffren is Illinois PIRG's Field Director. You can contact her at celeste@illinoispirg.org

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