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Protesters: Give Tax Revenues To Schools, Not Sears

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Sears Sign (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Sears Sign (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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ALGONQUIN, Ill. (CBS) — Some lawmakers are seeking to extend tax breaks for Sears Holdings Corp. to keep the company from making good on threats to move out of Illinois.

But on Thursday night, a protest rally in northwest suburban Algonquin drew some 3,000 people, who said the tax breaks would be lost revenue for schools in the area.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports

As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports, Community District 300 Supt. Michael Bregy quoted the movie “Independence Day” and told the crowd filling the gymnasium H.D. Jacobs School in Algonquin that those against the tax breaks “will not go quietly into the night,” the Daily Herald reported.

The newspaper says the fight is over Illinois Senate Bill 540, which would extend the Sears economic development area for another 15 years. It was established to keep Sears from moving out of the state back in 1989, and it is set to expire in two years.

When the tax break was enacted, the company had been threatening to move to North Carolina, so the state put together the tax incentives and Sears moved from the Sears Tower – now known as the Willis Tower – to Hoffman Estates.

Supporters say the extension of the tax break is needed for Illinois to remain competitive, as Sears considers options in other states, the Daily Herald reports.

But those at the rally say 23 years is long enough, and the tax incentives for Sears will take $14 million out of the school district’s hands, the newspaper reported.

Sears confirmed this month that it is in discussions about two prospective sites that are not in Illinois. Reports said the two sites are in Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio.

Sears is one of many companies that have discussed moving out of Illinois due to a hike in the state’s corporate tax in January, from 9.5 percent from 7.3 percent. Rumors that Sears was considering abandoning Illinois surfaced in May.

Sears has been in Illinois from the very beginning. Richard Warren Sears moved his company from Minneapolis to Chicago and met partner Alvah C. Roebuck in 1887.

But the mayor of Hoffman Estates, where the company is now based, said in May that the departure by Sears is a real threat.

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