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Opinion » Editorial

Mayor Daley's Raid on Oregon

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When you're the mayor of a decaying Rust Belt city, you naturally are inclined to grasp at any straw of hope that seems to present itself, so we probably shouldn't be too hard on Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

His Honor has been bragging loudly about how Oregon's passage of Measures 66 and 67, which modestly increased taxes on affluent individuals and big businesses, is going to prove to be a windfall for America's former Second (now Third) City.

"It will help our economic development immediately," Daley told the Chicago Sun-Times. "You'd better believe it. We'll be out in Oregon enticing corporations to relocate to Chicago."

Daley couldn't resist throwing in some faux populist, anti-progressive-tax rhetoric: "I've always thought America stands for [rewarding success]. ... I never knew it's a class war - that those who succeed in life are the ones that have to bear all the burden. ... It will be a whole change in America that those who succeed and work hard, we're gonna tax 'em more than anyone else."

We'll just note in passing that America has had a progressive federal income tax for almost 100 years and that it used to be much more progressive than it is now (the top rate was over 90% when the notorious Marxist Dwight D. Eisenhower was president) and move on to the substance, such as it is, of Daley's boast.

First, is Chicago really Tax Paradise for businesses, compared with the Tax Hell of Oregon?

Well, not exactly. It's true that Illinois has a lower personal income tax rate. But Chicago has the highest local sales tax of any major city in the country at 10.75%; Oregon, of course, has no sales tax. And Illinois has perhaps the most complex and cumbersome business tax system of any state, including (among other things) a Retailers' Occupation Tax, a Use Tax and a Service Occupation Tax in addition to state and local sales taxes.

The non-partisan but conservative-leaning Tax Foundation ranks Illinois 30th in its State Business Tax Climate Index for 2010. Oregon comes in at a very respectable 14th.

Of course, people looking to locate or relocate a business consider things other than the tax rate - such as whether a state has good transportation, good public safety, good public schools for their children and their employees' children, and good colleges to provide the educated workforce today's economy demands, not to mention all the other variables that get lumped into the category of "quality of life."

Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt gave a cutting rebuttal to Daley: "If someone wants to move their corporation to Chicago, and leave all the beauty and allure of Oregon behind, they'll still end up paying more in taxes. The one real advantage - you can still vote more than once in Chicago."

Ouch.

We said at the beginning that we shouldn't be too rough on Daley, and we won't be. Since he's already stuck his foot in his own mouth, we'll just apply THE BOOT to the other end of his anatomy. Gently.

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