Prevailing wage requirements will deliver ‘devastating blow’ to Southland development, mayors say
The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a Prevailing Wage Amendment on March 14, that south suburban officials believe will have a devastating effect on the local economy.
The amendment requires that businesses receiving a Class 6b, Class 8 or Class 9 property tax incentive to pay construction contractors “prevailing wages,” set forth by the Illinois Department of Labor. Prevailing wages include the cost of healthcare and pension benefits, which significantly adds to construction costs, wiping out any savings from the incentives, and making investment significantly higher in south Cook than in collar counties.
“You’ve all heard the story, I’m not going to repeat how we’re hurt in the Southland,” testified Hazel Crest Mayor, SSMMA President and Black Mayors Caucus President Vernard Alsberry before the Cook County Board Finance Committee on March 14.
“The Southland is suffering,” he added. “You read about Carson’s leaving in the middle of the night. Matteson is devastated by Toys r Us and JC Penney’s. You say that you have (union) members that live in the South suburbs, but they won’t live there long, because the work is not there. They can’t afford to live there if they can’t find jobs in the area. Or they’re going to move away because the devastation such as in Austin is coming our way.” Click here to view archived video from the March 14 Cook County Board meeting (Alsberry’s testimony starts at 1:00:04).
Local news media weighed-in as follows:
Ted Slowik in the Chicago Tribune/Daily Southtown: New wage requirements will deliver ‘devastating blow’ to Southland development, mayors say
“The Cook County Board has made some unpopular decisions in the past, like imposing a penny-an-ounce tax on sweetened beverages,” wrote Ted Slowik in a Tribune/Daily Southtown column on the Prevailing Wage Amendment. “Commissioners ignored warnings from business leaders that the soda tax would drive customers to shop in northwest Indiana, Will County and other places. They levied the tax anyway. When the soda tax took effect and sales tax revenues plummeted — costing the county an estimated $12 million in revenue — commissioners got wise and repealed it…” Read more here.
David P. Funk in the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle: County committee advances bill despite Southland objection
“The Cook County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, March 14, approved an ordinance amendment that south suburban officials believe will have a devastating effect on the local economy.
‘It’s just very disappointing,’ Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld said.” Read more here.
Tribune Editorial Board: Commissioners: Shelve this Cook County job killer
“From time to time a Cook County municipality will announce the arrival of a new warehouse or other project tied to the granting of a county property tax incentive. The idea is simple: Provide these deals to woo or retain employers. Some tax incentives make sense, while others are lazy government giveaways — we’re not debating the broader issue here. Instead, we’re warning that the Cook County Board is considering a big change to an important property tax incentive program that would wreck it by glomming on costly, union-friendly conditions.” Read more.