The Illinois Chamber of Secrets
by Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks, President of IIRON and Executive Director of A Just Harvest
As an ordained minister and someone who heads an anti-hunger organization, when I hear the President and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Doug Whitley, say that “the biggest loophole in the Illinois Tax Code is that the state does not tax individuals for the purchase of food or medicine”, I’m sickened! Once again, the most vulnerable are being blamed for the economic crisis that was actually caused by corporations concerned only with their bottom-line.
Carrying signs that read, “No More Secrets” and “Disclose Taxes” and donning flash lights symbolizing the need to “shine a light” on corporations that are not paying their fair share of taxes, members of Make Wall Street Pay Illinois visited Mr. Whitley at his office in Springfield yesterday, asking him to support SB282. SB282 is a bill that would require Illinois publicly traded corporations to report on the taxes they pay to Illinois.
His immediate response was “no.” He went on to make arguments, which were really no argument at all.
He said, “Individual tax returns should be private.” We replied, “this bill is not about individual tax returns, this is about publicly traded corporations. Corporations are not individuals.”
He said again, “this information should not be open to the public.” We replied, “the tax returns of non-profit organizations are open to the public, why shouldn’t publicly traded corporations be held to the same reporting standard?” He didn’t answer.
He said, “the IRS sets the rules, no laws are being broken.” We replied, “this is not about whether or not laws are being broken, this is about having all the information disclosed so that we can look at how 2/3 of publicly traded corporations in Illinois pay no income tax. Then we can begin to fix the tax code to ensure all corporations are paying their fair share.”
We asked, “how do the one-third of the corporations that actually pay their taxes feel about this bill? Do you represent them too?” He had no reply.
At this point in the meeting, the Lakeview Action Coalition reported that they had just met with Director Hamer of the Illinois Department of Revenue and he supported the need for transparency, the concept at the heart of SB282, and committed to further studying the bill. Mr. Whitley had no reaction to this news.
It was obvious Mr. Whitley would hold fast to the “charge to aggressively promote the interests of Illinois business” (taken from his bio) and would not be moved to use his position to support the interest of the state of Illinois, its citizens, the people most affected by budget cuts due to lack of revenue—so we closed the meeting in prayer and exited the meeting chanting powerfully.
As a person of faith, I am not discouraged by Mr. Whitley’s behavior—on the contrary my passion is rekindled. I believe that God’s justice will be a light for all people (Isaiah 51:4). I am charged to carry this light.