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Small Business Owners Seek ‘Big, Bold Changes’ From State

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Illinois State Capitol

Illinois State Capitol buillding in Springfield (AP Photo)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A lobbying group for Illinois’ small business owners says it’s time for major reforms from state government to improve the state’s deteriorating business climate.

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, a lobbying group representing small business owners said they are struggling and want to hear Gov. Pat Quinn to propose real reforms in his State of the State message on Wednesday.

“We need big, big, bold changes,” said Kim Clarke Maisch, Illinois director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

Maisch said Illinois’ business climate has deteriorated, especially since last year’s income tax hike.

“Some of the signals coming out of the governor’s office is that he has no intention of that being a temporary tax increase, which is how it was sold,” Maisch said. “Not only would we like that to be temporary, we’d like to see that repealed.”

She also said the group wants more done to reform worker’s compensation.

“We can’t let the governor put a check mark and say ‘We’re done.’ We are not done in that area,” Maisch said. “We need a home run in that area. Illinois is one of the most expensive states when it comes to workers’ compensation. We hear it every day from our members.”

The group also wants major pension reform, saying the state’s existing pension system is a major drag on the Illinois economy.

Maisch said the time for baby steps has passed, especially when other states are taking steps to attract businesses away from Illinois.

“We need big, bold ideas, because we are very concerned about the state of business in Illinois,” Maisch said. “Certainly, in Michigan, and in Indiana, and in other states, they are passing huge reforms – Wisconsin. They are really taking bold steps.”

She said the governor should start considering how Illinois can compete against neighboring states that have enacted or are considering right-to-work legislation. The Indiana House recently approved a proposal banning contracts between companies and labor unions that require employees to pay union dues. The Indiana Senate will consider the measure this week and is expected to approve it. Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he will sign it.

Supporters say right-to-work laws make a state more attractive to businesses, but opponents say such laws are an attack on labor unions and will drive down workers’ salaries.

“Indiana is a game-changer,” said Maisch. “Most of the economic growth over the past 20 years has occurred in the right-to-work states in the South and West. But it’s coming to the Midwest now, not just in Indiana but Michigan is looking at it too, and that is going to give businesses here a very convenient alternative to Illinois.”

She warned that Illinois has to keep up with its neighboring states or its business climate will get worse.

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