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Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Fri Sep 17, 2010

The Substantive Comptroller's Race

Quietly, the race for Illinois Comptroller has been the most substantively interesting of all the statewide races this season. Republican candidate Judy Barr Topinka launched her campaign with an unusual message: Illinois should merge the positions of State Treasurer and Comptroller into one financial office. It's a move for which the Democratic nominee, David Miller, has also voiced support. Next, Miller unveiled a comprehensive tax increment financing transparency proposal, one that could prove extremely useful to Chicago-area lawmakers and voters as they try to repair the city's finances in the coming years. Now, the two candidates are debating how Illinois should divvy up its scare resources.

Earlier this week, Miller told Chicago Public Radio that he would like to expedite payments to vendors and non-profits that are owed state dollars and operate in undeserved communities. Topinka quickly dismissed that idea as "social engineering." In a press release last evening, Miller clapped back, calling the policy "social decency that goes to the heart of public service." Ideally, the state would raise enough money to pay down all of its bills. Since that's not going to happen anytime soon, this debate is relevant. And Miller, for what it's worth, has been a vocal supporter of comprehensive tax reform in Illinois, which would begin to close that $13 billion deficit. Here's a video we shot of him earlier this year in Springfield, reflecting on the importance of the Save Our State rally:

Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
Wed Sep 15, 2010

TIF Reform Bills Unlikely To Go Away

In late August, State Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) introduced a trifecta of bills (HB 6902, 6903, and 6904) that, if signed into law, would revolutionize how the City of Chicago's controversial tax increment financing (TIF) program operates. Fritchey, however, is running for Comm. Forrest Claypool's seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners and is slated to leave the General Assembly. Will his bills die?

Not necessarily. Earlier this week, State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) told Progress Illinois that she is "very interested" in carrying the torch on some version of Fritchey's package. The precise wording of the legislation could change, but Steans said she would look at pushing a Auditor General investigation; examining the definition of blight in the current state TIF law; increasing transparency in "porting" TIF dollars; and excluding certain taxing bodies from the program going forward. "With the mayoral election coming up, the timing is good," Steans said.

What's less clear is how, legislatively, this may play out. It's unlikely the bills will get a hearing during the fall veto session, according to Steans. And state representatives may want to sponsors the bills, as well. "What I don't know is if someone is going to pick this up on the House side," Steans said. State. Rep Greg Harris (D-Chicago) did tell PI he's talked with Fritchey about the bills and Fritchey himself said he's canvassing his colleagues for support. A call to State. Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), a leader in the Democratic caucus, wasn't immediately returned.

In other TIF news, State Rep. David Miller (D-Lynwood), who is the Democratic nominee for State Comptroller, has proposed an online database to help the public understand how each of Illinois' 1,000 TIF districts are operating if he's elected in November. “There are millions of dollars at stake," he said in a press release, "and taxpayers deserve to know whether or not these TIFs are benefiting their community."