Rep. Keith Wheeler Headlined an Overview of Energy Proposals that Will Impact Illinois’ Manufacturing Sector and Taxpayers Statewide
Governor Pritzker’s failure to live up to past promises, and a potentially disastrous proposal of his own, could complicate the legislature’s ability to reach an agreement on energy policy—policy that will determine the reliability and affordability of energy for Illinois businesses and taxpayers.
Those were the top-line points from a recent Virtual Legislative Briefing, where members of the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA) heard from Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego). Rep. Wheeler provided an overview of energy measures currently being discussed in Springfield, while also cautioning that Governor Pritzker’s history of reneging on taxation compromises creates a new hurdle to reaching policy agreements.
Rep. Wheeler briefly summarized the proposals, which represent a variety of perspectives and priorities. He noted that the ultimate goal is to achieve the strongest possible balance of affordability and reliability. “Manufacturers want to have that balance,” he added, highlighting that sector’s significant energy needs for sustaining and building their businesses.
Governor Pritzker’s recently released energy proposal is a large concern—as it will unleash a further wave of damage on the state’s economy and taxpayers, just as the state begins to recover from the pandemic. As TMA itself underscored in a recent statement, “[his] energy proposal will lead to an astronomical surge in energy costs and capsizing energy reliability not just for manufacturers, but every single business and family in Illinois. Eliminating affordable and plentiful energy sources and slamming business owners with a carbon tax while they’re still trying to recover from the pandemic will devastate manufacturers and bring the Illinois economy to a screeching halt. Illinoisans, from residents to businesses, are already over-taxed—we can’t afford Pritzker’s energy cost and tax hike.”
In a survey conducted this week, TMA’s members throughout Illinois said 49% to 27% that Pritzker’s energy proposal is not an economically viable direction for their business or the industry as a whole in Illinois.
Wheeler also acknowledged the challenge of formulating a finalized policy from a group of six competing packages, stressing the importance of these measures to all Illinoisans. “[These packages will] have dramatic impact on virtually every single person in the state of Illinois, every single business in the state of Illinois, and, going back to you [at TMA], manufacturing depends on energy as much as anyone does.”
He elaborated on this point, noting that a misguided policy could disincentivize businesses from operating in Illinois. Citing a reform that he helped author as an example of the positive impact policy can have on business, Wheeler explained that the Blue Collar Jobs Act tax-credit program promoted plant expansion and upgrades within manufacturing and other sectors.
Unfortunately, Wheeler said, “The governor, by a press release, just halted this program totally.” Wheeler conveyed his frustration and emphasized that the governor’s action slows the progress of updating manufacturing and other businesses from 1950s and 60s physical plant to 21st-century standards.
TMA emphasized a reversal on tax agreements would harm Illinois businesses and that this move fit a larger pattern of Governor Pritzker reneging on budget-related promises from 2019. Wheeler added that these reversals hurt businesses while also undermining negotiations with Governor Pritzker today, because legislators can’t be sure that the governor is dealing in good faith.