By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker recently signed into law a tax incentives package that state lawmakers hope will help Illinois become a manufacturing hub for the budding electric vehicle industry.
The Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois, or REV Act, passed the General Assembly with near-unanimous bipartisan support during the recently concluded fall session. It provides tax credits for income tax withheld for EV manufacturers and costs to train new or retained employees.
It also applies to the manufacturers of EV parts, such as batteries. It’s an effort to lure new manufacturers to Illinois while incentivizing existing manufacturers to invest in their Illinois facilities and workers.
“With this bill, we intend to attract more EV manufacturers, charging station manufacturers and automotive parts manufacturers, more than ever before, and it will help Illinois become one of the leading EV hubs in the entire nation,” Pritzker said during a signing ceremony at the Rock Valley College Advanced Technology Center in Belvidere.
The tax credits created by the new law range from 75 percent to 100 percent of income tax withheld for creating new jobs or 25 percent to 50 percent for retained employees, depending on factors such as company location and number of employees hired. A 10 percent credit for training expenses would also be available.
Tax credits for construction wages and building materials are also included in the bill.
The added incentives complement Illinois’ other advantages when it comes to manufacturing, Pritzker said, but they are needed to make Illinois competitive with other states from a financial perspective.
Bill sponsor state Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, said that’s particularly true in Belvidere near his district, where the Stellantis manufacturing company, which produces Jeeps at the location, is reportedly considering retooling its facility to manufacture electric vehicles.
The state has also been looking to lure a joint battery manufacturing venture announced by Stellantis and tech giant Samsung.
“I don't think Stellantis would have conversations with the governor and the governor's staff and lawmakers if they weren't serious about considering the retooling of this plant here locally,” Stadelman said. “They would not be in conversations if they would not be considering Belvidere to invest in this area. So that's why I think this package is so important.”
The other advantages to choosing Illinois, according to Pritzker, are a centralized location in the U.S., strong infrastructure, the second-largest crop of computer science engineer graduates in the nation and a pair of major national laboratories.
Those assets helped lure the electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian Automotive to a closed Mitsubishi plant in the Bloomington-Normal area in 2017. Its vice president of public policy, Jim Chen, said the bill will be a major support for the company that already employs more than 3,000 Illinoisans in its 3.5 million square feet of manufacturing space.
“Today's bill signing represents the next step in promoting Illinois as the Silicon Valley of EVs, as we work together to attract new investment from suppliers and other supporting players in this industry,” he said.
For Pritzker, the bill represents an opportunity to fulfill carbon reduction goals while bringing much needed economic opportunity to the state.
“The Reimagining Electric Vehicles Act is about acknowledging that there doesn't need to be a trade-off between a cleaner environment and more jobs,” Pritzker said. “We can do both. And today we take a giant leap forward in that quest.”
Republicans were broadly supportive of the tax incentives package. But during floor debate, they peppered the bill’s Democratic sponsors with questions as to why the governor froze a similar tax incentives package known as the Blue Collar Jobs Act as part of his budget proposal for the current year, grouping it with other policies he referred to as “corporate tax loopholes.”
Rep. Dan Brady, a Bloomington Republican who represents the area where Rivian is located, emphasized the importance of the bill’s focus on the manufacturing of EV parts, not just complete vehicles.
“This incentive plan targets companies who will supply our existing manufacturers,” he said. “This proposal will help make Illinois more competitive to attract companies who will not only be here to supply, but provide jobs – sorely needed jobs.”
The measure also has support from the state’s manufacturing industry. Mark Denzler, CEO and president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, a trade group representing the industry, said the bill will allow Illinois to “keep and grow good-paying manufacturing jobs in an exciting and flourishing industry.”
“This law builds on our state’s proud history of auto manufacturing and positions Illinois to become a national leader in electric vehicle and battery production,” he said in a statement.
Pritzker’s administration has been working to sell the idea of Illinois as an EV hub on the global stage.
He and top staff traveled to London then Glasgow, Scotland, in early November to meet with business leaders and attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference. House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Senate President Don Harmon joined Pritzker on the London wing of the trip.
Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell said in a phone call with Capitol News Illinois the Illinois delegation met with an estimated 40 business leaders, and plans to follow up aggressively in the coming weeks in an effort to bring company representatives to the state.
“There's a lot of interest in Illinois, as a place to really invest in green technology, as having hung up the welcome sign to say that we’re open for business,” he said.
(Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.)