Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday accused his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner of supporting “bad behavior” by “unpatriotic” corporations such as Walgreens, which is considering moving its headquarters out of the U.S. to avoid paying corporate taxes.
“For anybody running for public office in Illinois to endorse that kind of bad behavior – loopholes that are really taking advantage of the American tax payer,” Quinn said. “I think we really have to say that candidate is way wrong, way off base. It’s time that we make sure we stay in America and help Americans — and not run off to a foreign country to avoid taxation.”
Quinn’s remarks, delivered at an unrelated news conference in Chicago, come after Rauner suggested in an interview with NBC5 that a poor business climate was to blame for Walgreens’ possible move.
“America needs to compete, Illinois needs to compete. The right answer is not to create walls, to block companies and people,” Rauner said in the interview. “That’s terrible. We should be about freedom, choice and competition.”
Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf refused to clarify where Rauner stands on the issue of corporate tax avoidance.
But in an emailed statement he blamed Quinn for presiding over an uncompetetive economy.
“Bruce laid out a corporate welfare agenda that eliminates abuse of the tax code at the state level under Pat Quinn.” Schrimpf said. “He is hopeful that leaders in Washington can come together to craft comprehensive corporate tax reform that makes America more competitive and leads to more job creation.”
Moves like the one Walgreens is considering are called tax “inversions” and are a perfectly legal tax-avoidance strategy. But they have come under fire from Democrats across the U.S. in recent weeks for shifting the tax burden onto smaller businesses and individuals. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin proposed a bill in Washington Tuesday that aims to curtail the practice.
Quinn didn’t just have sharp words for Rauner. He also questioned the conscience of companies, such as Walgreens, that threaten to “renounce” their “citizenship” to avoid paying their “fair share.”
“I think these corporations really need to examine their conscience,” Quinn said. “We cannot, as everyday citizens, pick the tax rules that we want to abide by, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.”
Walgreens officials have said they are still evaluating their next move, saying “we will do what is in the best long-term interests of our customers, employees and shareholders.”