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Mitchell offers plan to ease unemployment

By Ryan Voyles, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 14--DECATUR -- Relief for counties that struggle with high unemployment is the goal of a new plan proposed by Bill Mitchell.

The longtime Republican state representative from Forsyth has presented a plan to the General Assembly that would provide two tax incentives for employers in areas with high unemployment rates.

"This is a crisis that can no longer be ignored by the powers that be in Springfield," Mitchell said..

The plan would give employers in the county a tax deduction for a portion of the costs associated with providing workers compensation insurance. Businesses that employee at least five new employees in the county would also be eligible for an Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, tax credit.

The EDGE program provides tax credits to qualifying companies equal to the amount of state income taxes withheld from the salaries of employees in the newly created job.

The plan would provide the incentives for counties with unemployment 2 percent higher than the state's average over the course of a year, though Mitchell said that was an arbitrary number and could be changed.

Decatur has long struggled with unemployment and currently has the highest unemployment rate in the state at nearly 13 percent. A recent study said Decatur had the second-fastest shrinking economy in the nation, which Mitchell referred to several times Thursday.

While local groups such as Grow Decatur are doing their part to help the community, Mitchell does not believe the state gives them enough of an opportunity to grow and fully have a level playing field with larger companies.

"Local people are doing what they can to help," Mitchell said. "If you're the little guy, it's harder to get these tax credits through."

The plan, HB6013, was filed in the statehouse Monday and does not yet have any co-sponsors, nor has it been assigned to any committee. While he is hopeful he can get something passed, Mitchell admitted the legislation was also a conversation starter to address the serious issue of how to improve the economy in areas such as Macon or Vermillion County.

"At least it's a discussion to address ways to combat chronically high unemployment," he said.|(217)421-7985

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