Cost of Illinois tax breaks grows as support for them wanes.

That's according to the Illinois Statehouse News which reports:

A tax break package meant to boost a business community hit by the Great Recession could cost the state $848 million in just three years.

The only funding source specifically outlined to date for the package is a change to the Illinois tax code that would bring in $571 million next year and $354 million in 2013 before running dry. At the same time, the provisions would cost more and more. By 2014, the state would face $848 million in lost tax revenue, a number that would only grow.

The companies clamoring for these tax breaks from a near-bankrupt state are worse than  vultures hovering over a dying figure on the scorched desert floor. The vultures at least wait until death arrives before descending on the carcass. These companies want to arrive sooner, to suck out the last few ounces of life.

I understand that companies like Sears and CME wish to maximize shareholder return. If that means they need to relocate to somewhere more hospitable to their business or to extort cash or benefits by  threatening to move  out of state, that's the nature of the beast. Indeed, having birthed and grown here, the companies could properly argued they have showered the region with copious benefits. They can argue that what they extort from us will pay off even more for the state down the road.

Yet, there is no "down the road" for Illinois unless the state figures out a way--right now--how to climb out of this mess. And showering these companies with more money won't help.

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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