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Reeder: Illinois needs to do more for businesses

Published: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 8:35 p.m. CST

SPRINGFIELD – I picked up my vacation photos at Walgreens the other day.

I’ve read that the drugstore chain is considering becoming a Swiss corporation.

I’ll admit the thought of a company that is essentially an American icon becoming a foreign corporation gives me pause.

After all, Walgreens is one of Illinois’ premier companies. And now they are talking about moving their headquarters to Switzerland. But what exactly does it mean when a corporation becomes Swiss? Will they start having complimentary fondue in the checkout lanes? Or is it a matter of some incorporation paperwork being filed in an office in the Alps rather than Springfield?

I would hate to see Walgreens – or any other corporation – renounce its U.S. citizenship.

Every time that happens, it reminds us that the business climate in this country is not what it should be. One has to ask, why would a corporation founded in Illinois 113 years ago want to become Swiss?

Corporate taxes in Illinois and the United States are too high. The United States has the highest corporate tax rates on the planet. And, you guessed it, Illinois has one of the highest state corporate tax rates in the U.S.

We can spend a lot of time bemoaning that fact, or simply acknowledge that is the case and work to create a climate that attracts business and doesn’t repel jobs. Still the idea of Walgreens leaving is a bitter pill to swallow.

So what’s the solution?

The answer would seem to be to lower the corporate income tax rate so that it is competitive with other western nations. In fact, if the U.S. had the same tax policies as Switzerland – or most Western nations – Walgreens would pay billions less in taxes and wouldn’t be considering moving.

The billions saved could go to shareholders in the form of dividends, to employees through higher pay and customers through lower prices.

And what could be more American than that?

• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and a journalist with Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at sreeder@illinoispolicy.org.

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