information provided by South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association
CHICAGO, Ill. (March 1, 2018) – A public hearing about the Prevailing Wage Amendment drew at least 38 members of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA) to the Cook County Board of Commissioners’ Finance Committee meeting on March 1. The proposed Prevailing Wage Amendment to the Tax Incentive Ordinance is considered detrimental to Southland economic development, and SSMMA’s members provided hours of testimony. SSMMA and other Cook County communities oppose the Prevailing Wage Amendment introduced by lead sponsor Cook County Commissioner and McCook Village President Jeff Tobolski on the grounds that it increases costs to business, stymies growth, and does not guarantee that local workers will benefit.
Mayor Patty Eidam was among those who gave testimony, and she was joined by South Holland Mayor Don DeGraff, Richton Park Mayor Rick Reinbold, Country Club Hills Mayor James Ford, Dolton Mayor Riley Rogers, Ford Heights Mayor Annie Coulter, Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld, Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams, Matteson Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin, Oak Forest Mayor Hank Kuspa, Olympia Fields Mayor Sterling Burke, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, Park Forest Mayor John Ostenburg, Calumet City Economic Development Director Pete Saunders, Riverdale Chief of Staff Tim Williams, Thornton Village Manager Doug Beckman, Blue Island Director of Finance and Administration Mike Marzal, Rev. Donald Luster of Harvey, SSMMA Executive Director Kristi DeLaurentiis, and Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Reggie Greenwood.
The proposed Prevailing Wage Tax Incentive Amendment requires prevailing wages be paid by employers to contractors who work on projects that receive a tax incentive. The proposed amendment also requires that contractors participate in Department of Labor apprenticeship programs, which would dramatically limit the participation of local small and mid-size contractors in projects within their own communities. The Prevailing Wage Amendment drives up the cost of doing business in Cook County. With neighboring Will County and Indiana nearby, higher wage costs mean higher project costs, which will deter investment and economic recovery in the Southland region.
Tobolski, lead sponsor of the Prevailing Wage Amendment, is commissioner of the 16th District and Village President of McCook, Illinois. His municipality, with a population of 228, is the lowest populated municipality in the county. In comparison, the population of the entire Cook County region in 2015 was 5,238,216. SSMMA’s regional population is nearly 700,000.
Below are excerpts of some of the Southland statements opposing the Prevailing Wage Amendment:
- “This measure won’t create jobs in our communities,” testified SSMMA Executive Director Kristi DeLaurentiis. “In fact, it will do the opposite. Passage of this amendment would dis-incentivize investment in our communities. It would drive costs for projects up, add red tape, and reduce the viability of the incentive program. It will stymy growth and investment and jobs in Cook County and our local communities. It’s too easy to avoid Cook County and move on to neighboring counties that are less costly and easier to navigate. No projects mean no construction jobs and no employees either.”
- “The proposed revisions requiring prevailing wage and apprenticeship programs for property tax eligibility will dramatically adversely impact Cook County economic development efforts,” testified Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation Executive Director and SSMMA Deputy Director Reggie Greenwood. “Indeed, the recent changes to the Cook County Tax Incentive Program along with the Prevailing Wage Tax Incentive Amendment is having a catastrophic impact on all of us trying to attract new business, retain them and close present deals that are currently in progress.”
- “So much is at stake here,” stated South Holland Mayor Don DeGraff. “In my history of 25 years as an elected official, I’ve never experienced or had legislation put before me that has been more detrimental to my community and the South suburbs as a whole. And we, in South Holland, feel strongly about labor unions and the ability for labor to be fair, but the result of this will literally kill us. The required affidavits, the mandated apprentice programs, the prevailing wage will cripple Cook County, not just the South suburbs. Without tax incentives, it is impossible to compete with Indiana, and it will be devastating to us.”
- “An ever-changing incentive is really no incentive at all,” said Thornton Village Manager Doug Beckman. He cited a recent example of a business owner who wanted to buy some land for his company and put it back on the tax rolls. But he found the incentive program too unstable and unreliable, and now he is looking in Munster, Indiana.
- “As mayor of Orland Park, the third largest tax generator for Cook County, I’m disturbed by another onerous, ill-conceived, and unfunded mandate from the county,” said Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau. “Prevailing wage determinations in Illinois are significantly higher than union scale and not determined by survey as the law intended decades ago. Prevailing wage is higher than union scale across the board.”
- “Every one of us would love to see every one of us who lives and works in Cook County get the highest wages they can,” stated Park Forest Mayor John Ostenburg. “But we face a reality, and that reality is, if you come to the five townships of the South suburbs, you will see empty building after empty building. You will see vacant home after vacant home because of what we’ve experienced with the economic downturn.” Ostenburg added, “There’s no commerce, no industry no commercial activity to share the tax burden with homeowners, especially in Cook County with this up-side-down tax system. The heavy tax burden means that some residents are paying as much in property taxes as they’re paying on their mortgages, in some cases more. Come to the South suburbs. We’ll get the bus, and we’ll take you around from empty building to empty building, and then you tell us that we don’t need viable incentives that help us get more business. Come, I invite you. I’ll provide the bus.”
- “The mission of the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau is economic development, and that’s not only attracting conventions, tradeshows, conferences, and sporting events to our region, but we are directly engaged in working with developers for new hotels, restaurants, and attractions, including the potential development of a new multi-use sports complex for the Chicago Southland,” testified Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau President/CEO Jim Garrett. “It takes many years to develop relationships with these developers; however the Prevailing Wage Amendment being presented will be a negative ramification to these projects, potentially leaving them dead in the water and in jeopardy of failure.”
DeLaurentis summed up the position of SSMMA: “So it comes down to this: Is the Tax Incentive Program going to be allowed to promote economic development or, through the Prevailing Wage amendment, impede it? It will not add jobs in our communities—it will halt growth and investment, and impede the potential for jobs across the Southland and throughout Cook County. No projects means no construction jobs and no employees.”