Tax increment financing seems ready to have a moment on the Springfield stage. "I think there are lots of questions about the TIF issue, whether they're used as slush funds, whether there's appropriate accounting for the way the dollars are spent," House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) told Progress Illinois. "This seems to be a good time to have a look." In addition to tax increment financing, Currie said legislators need to examine the impact of the more than 90 enterprise zones around Illinois.
A host of TIF bills have been introduced into the current General Assembly. One of the bills proposed would exempt
Chicago Public Schools from the taxing bodies that lose property
tax dollars because of the existence of TIF districts in the city. Another would send "surplus" TIF dollars back to the taxing bodies each year.
Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action of Illinois, said his organization has been part of a group of stakeholders, which includes people with both favorable and skeptical positions on TIF districts and enterprise zones, that State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), chair of the House Revenue & Finance Committee, convened shortly after the current General Assembly session started. "So far in the process we have just been sharing information and thoughts on our respective positions on TIFs and Enterprise Zones," Palmer said. There have been two meetings so far. Palmer thought that negotiations about a TIF bill could last the entire General Assembly session, with legislation coming up possibly in May.
Palmer said Housing Action of Illinois is particularly interested in State Rep. Cynthia Soto's HB 1976, which would allow TIF dollars to go toward low-income housing, and HB 1575, offered by State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero). The latter bill would tighten the definition of blight in the state TIF statute, essentially place a cap on the total amount of a city's tax base that could be included in a TIF district, and allow taxing bodies to opt out of TIF zones.
Late last month, an investigation by ChicagoTalks.org found that between January 2000 and July 2010, the City of Chicago promised private companies, such as United Airlines, Quaker Oats, and others, about $600 million in TIF subsidies, nearly half of the total amount promised during that time period.
Bradley, whose committee is handling TIF bills in the House, could not be reached by the time this post went live. Progress Illinois will update the site if we hear back from him.