Quick Hit Micah Maidenberg Friday January 7th, 2011, 3:22pm

TIFs, Economic Development, And Job Losses

When Daley administration officials promote their decision to grant tax increment financing (TIF) dollars to large, profitable companies based in the city's Loop, there's usually a line about the jobs that the TIF grant will help "retain" downtown.

Thing is, the mayor's TIF-centric economic strategy hasn't proven all that effective on the jobs front, especially for a pretty important constituency: residents of the city of Chicago. That's according to "Loopholes," a new investigation by the Chicago Reporter's Angela Caputo (a Progress Illinois alumna). Her analysis finds that the city's Loop shed nearly 13,000 jobs "during the better part of the past decade." And 94 percent of those cuts were borne by city dwellers, with the vast majority of the job losses hitting South and Southwest Siders. Meanwhile, downtown's two biggest TIF districts (in the Loop proper and on the Near South Side) siphoned off $1.2 billion in property tax dollars in the name of economic development from other taxing bodies that are now facing their own budget crises.

"The whole point of TIF is to spur development in blighted neighborhoods. But the Reporter has found that many of the areas needing economic development money the most aren’t getting much; their sales tax revenue is shrinking, and the number of Loop jobs they hold are dwindling," Caputo writes. "At the same time, elected officials have failed to force businesses to set local hiring or wage standards, though many of these businesses are benefitting from millions of local tax incentives to move to the Loop."

The problems with how the Daley administration used tax increment financing are legion, and the Reporter's new piece adds yet another chapter to the story.


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