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A bake sale for the Merc

Despite nearly $1 billion in profits last year, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is crying about the recent state tax hike — and community groups across the city feel their pain.

They want to help.  Really.

Community activists and teachers will be among those hosting a bake sale for CME Group Monday, June 13 at 10 a.m. at CME headquarters, 20 S. Wacker.  It’s sponsored by Grassroots Collaborative.

It seems clear that CME’s recent threat to move its headquarters is a publicity stunt.  The company’s revenues (and tax liabilities) are generated at its trading floors and at its huge, brand-new data center in Aurora, which would be much harder to move than its corporate offices.

Furthermore, three of the four states CME is said to be considering – Indiana, New York, and New Jersey—have higher corporate tax rates than Illinois, even after the recent tax hike here.*

(The fourth state is Texas, where a Tea Party legislature and a radically pro-business agenda of tax cuts and deregulation have transformed a widely-touted “economic miracle” – based largely on an explosion of minimum-wage jobs – into an economic basket case.)

It’s more likely, as the Tribune reports, that CME wants Governor Quinn to offer a tax break package, as he has to more than 130 companies in his two years in office – with deals this year alone totaling $230 million.  You can call it corporate welfare if you like; Greg Hinz calls it “piracy,” and David Greising points out that it’s not always a good investment.

It wouldn’t seem like a few million in tax breaks would make a huge difference to CME.  The company had $3 billion in revenue and $951 million in profit last year, with both figures up 15 percent over the previous year.

Perhaps they’re just feeling unloved, in which case Grassroots Collaborative’s action will certainly help.

Shareholders at the corporation’s annual meeting last week weren’t so concerned with taxes, David Roeder reports:  they’re more worried about skyrocketing executive compensation, while stock prices and dividend payouts lag.

They might consider joining a much larger action on Tuesday, when thousands of Chicagoans are expected to protest the Chicagoland CFO Executive Summit (4:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 14) at the Hyatt Regency, 151 E. Wacker.

It will be preceded by three smaller rallies at 3:45 – for education at Cityfront Plaza, jobs at Daley Plaza, and housing at the Thompson Center – each of which will march to the Hyatt.

According to Stand Up Chicago, the 80 corporations and banks represented at the summit made $200 billion in profits last year.  “Rather than investing in job creation, they spent the money on themselves, paying their CEOs $857 million and their CFOs $327 million.

“How many homes could be saved from foreclosure with that kind of money?  How many schools could stay open?  How many jobs could be created?”

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* Business groups like to include Illinois’s 2.5-percent personal property replacement tax in the coporate income tax, boosting the total over 9 percent.  But that tax was instituted when local taxing bodies in Illinois were barred from taxing corporate equipment and personal property in 1998, as localities in many other states still do.

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Category: state budget, taxes

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