“It's been an emergency for 20 years,” Baldwin says. “We get $25 for supplemental materials in our classrooms for a year, and, you know, that might be some markers to make maps. It could be anything really to supplement what you do in the classroom. Then there are the basics that you get. But we've even gone to rotating our textbook purchases to every seven years, we used to do it every five, because it's so expensive.”
Thursday Governor Rod Blagojevich told Baldwin and other teachers he has an answer—make big businesses pay higher taxes to help pay for education and healthcare funding.
“There are nearly 10,000 corporations in Illinois with gross sales of more than $256 billion dollars that paid no corporate income taxes in Illinois, this is unfair. The fact is little businesses, they're paying their fair share because they can't afford the army accountants these big guys have,” Blagojevich says. “The purpose of this is to make those big corporations who aren't paying any corporate income taxes pay their fair share so that we can make the middle class the focus of our attention.”
Baldwin and hundreds of other people gathered here in Danville in support of that mission.
“Somebody's got to help us, and I think it should be big business and the corporations,” Baldwin says.
But just down the street some Danville business owners disagree.
“You’ve got everyday expenses, you've got different things break down and repaired you know and it's everyday,” says Royal Donut worker Joanne Peters. She fears big businesses and factories will simply pass that tax onto small businesses like the donut shop where she works.
“This is supposed to be the land of the free, what's free you know?”
Peters says that will leave business owners with two choices... charge you more, or get out of town. “We haven't hardly got any actual businesses left here. The big factories are leaving, everything's leaving here, it's getting to be deadwood end,” she says.
Some local leaders were also concerned about businesses leaving town. One alderman says he's already gotten letters from businesses threatening to pull out. Blagojevich calls those threats scare tactics.
“There's no reason for any business to do that,” the Governor says. “It’d be foolish and ridiculous businesses practices because products that are made in Illinois and goods and services that are made in Illinois are exempt if they're going to be shipped out of Illinois. So businesses that would do something as irresponsible as that would be cutting off their nose to spite their face. Those are just scare tactics that are coming from the lobbyists of these big corporations that just don't want to pay their fair share.”
Blagojevich says 85% of businesses won't even be affected under this plan, and he says those that will can definitely afford it.
“I wish I could wave a magic wand and make all this happen without some sacrifice. I wish I could snap my fingers, but we can't and you know we can't,” he told Thursday’s crowd. “Somebody’s got to pay.”