Lawmakers react to CAT taking pass on Illinois

By Marc Strauss

February 8, 2012 Updated Feb 9, 2012 at 10:53 AM CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Area lawmakers are disappointed with Caterpillar's decision. They said it might finally cause the state of Illinois to re-think its corporate tax policy.

The news of CAT's decision not to relocate a Japanese manufacturing plant in Illinois came as no surprise to State Representative Dave Leitch (R-73rd District).

"I'm disappointed but not at all surprised," said Leitch. "Caterpillar for a long time has expressed its concern about the business climate in Illinois and the failure of the state to meaningfully improve it."

"We ought to regard this as a wakeup call," said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-46th District). "We ought to use this opportunity to do what we can to make sure that we're making every effort to make business a welcome entity in Illinois."

To do that, several local lawmakers advocate rolling back corporate income taxes. And they called Illinois workers compensation laws too punitive to attract companies like CAT, even though the general assembly passed reforms during its last session.

"What we did last year wasn't real, meaningful workers compensation reform. We need to do that," said State Representative Mike Unes (R-91st District).

"The Illinois Manufacturers Association was supportive of that particular piece of legislation but Caterpillar wanted Illinois to go a bit further," explaine State Representative Jehan Gordon (D-92nd District).

Don Moffitt (R-74th District) represents Galesburg. That city made a big pitch to lure Caterpillar, even offering up the old Maytag plant to house the relocated facility.

"Any time you can bring something to the region it benefits a big radius," said Moffitt. "It's a big disappointment, but that just says go back and try again."

A new Caterpillar plant in central Illinois would have created about 1,000 jobs for the region. As one lawmaker told me, that's a lot of tax revenue going somewhere else.