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Lawmaker criticizes Sears’ move to close 100-plus stores

Gov. PQuinn said he didn’t believe Sears Kmart store closings would affect Sears' headquarters remaining suburban Hoffmann Estates.  |

Gov. Pat Quinn said he didn’t believe Sears and Kmart store closings would affect Sears' headquarters remaining in suburban Hoffmann Estates. | AP file photo

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Updated: December 28, 2011 5:35PM

Gov. Pat Quinn called Sears’ store closings regrettable but said he wasn’t second-guessing the legislation he signed in to law days ago giving the Hoffman Estates-based corporation a series of tax incentives to keep its headquarters in Illinois.

“We expect the headquarters to stay here and the jobs to be here, that’s what the agreement is all about,” Quinn told reporters Tuesday morning after an unrelated event at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago. “The fact they have to close some stores around the country, that isn’t good news, but it doesn’t directly affect this agreement.”

Quinn dodged questions about whether language should have been written in to the bill he signed to keep the doors of Illinois stores open.

“We obviously hope that they don’t close stores here and keep them open and keep those jobs here in the stores,” Quinn said. “But as far as the headquarters where literally thousands of people work, that was what the agreement was about and that’s what we provided the incentive for.”

Quinn didn’t believe the Sears and Kmart store closings would affect Sears headquarters remaining in suburban Hoffmann Estates but wasn’t sure how many of the 120 stores expected to close across the country would be in Illinois.

Quinn spoke after a ceremonial lighting of a Menorah, in honor of Hanukkah, on the main floor of the state building with a gathering of local rabbis and Jewish elected leaders.

State Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) was among the group and he said he felt “betrayed” by the Sears announcement.

“It wasn’t a good Christmas or Hanukkah gift for the people of the state of Illinois,” Silverstein told reporters. “We gave them a very nice package and then for them to pull this off two days after Christmas — people are, you know, in holiday mode. It’s really upsetting and I think some questions have to be answered whether they knew they were going to do this at the time we voted on it several weeks ago,” he said.

“I feel kind of betrayed.”

Silverstein initially said lawmakers who approved the package weren’t at fault, but when asked whether language should have been written in to the measure to keep the stores open, he conceded.

“Hindsight’s 20-20 — you’re 100 percent right,” Sliverstein said. “We don’t have that much control. But when we give a package of incentives like this to try and keep a corporation here in Illinois they should at least tell us what they’re going to do — not so much in the far future, but in the near future. We passed this package . . . two weeks ago and all the sudden, they pull this on us.”

He said this is a lesson learned for future tax incentive packages.

“I think we’re going to have to look with a little more scrutiny,” Silverstein said.

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