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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 13, 2024

Luring Illinois jobs requires strategy

Last week, Gov. Scott Walker unabashedly said he plans to capitalize on the Land of Lincoln's most recent extreme corporate tax hike. Within hours after Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn signed legislation approving a 46 percent spike in the corporate tax rate, Walker said he intended to launch a full-scale marketing campaign—billboards and all—to encourage Illinois businesses to relocate to Wisconsin.

The tax increase, which raises Illinois' corporate taxes from 4.8 to 7 percent, keeps Illinois below Wisconsin's rate of 7.9 percent but is a steep increase due only to Illinois' chronic budget shortfalls. According to Walker, Wisconsin is suddenly looking more and more competitive despite its higher overall rate. However, if Walker continues to trash talk Illinois while failing to point to any significant selling points besides similar tax rates, his marketing stunts will likely fall flat. 

Obviously, Walker isn't afraid of neighborly disputes. His pre-election decision to put the breaks on a major high-speed rail project connecting Wisconsin to other Midwest states shows he's willing to follow through on controversial ideas. Walker practically laughed in the face of the rail plan that would have created a number of permanent jobs in Wisconsin and would have strengthened, rather than flattened, our relations with neighboring states.

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But the failed rail project is now spilled milk and Illinois is a solidly blue state that Walker would likely disagree with no matter what. Looking outside the state for jobs is somewhat unavoidable considering the number of recent corporations that have left Wisconsin. Walker said he plans to revive an old slogan—""Escape to Wisconsin""—from a tourism bumper sticker to entice businesses, and he is currently pushing a bill that would eliminate two years of corporate taxes for any new businesses that come to Wisconsin. Nonetheless, if Walker plans to steal jobs away from Illinois, he should take a more tactful approach that emphasizes a number of Wisconsin's sustainable, comparative benefits.

Wisconsin has a skilled and spirited workforce that would be willing to compete for any new jobs that come to the state. The closing of the General Motors plant in Janesville and other businesses have left many people out of work who are now eager to fill labor positions in the manufacturing or construction industry. Walker has also said that improving roads and transportation is one of his top priorities. Fulfilling this campaign promise would serve as a compelling incentive to manufacturing businesses that are looking to relocate.

Making attempts to lure businesses to Wisconsin is worth the time and effort. However, it's difficult to see how Walker's marketing strategy fits into any type of long-term economic agenda. Although Illinois' tax hike comes at a time when Walker needed a plan to kick-start his promise to create 250,000 jobs, his free-riding off of Illinois' grim economy seems less than admirable. We encourage Walker to promote Wisconsin as a state with sound infrastructure and a strong workforce, and we hope he takes time to seriously think about an innovative economic plan to create jobs and increase Wisconsin's competitiveness on the national level. 

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