Jan 31, 2012
TIF subsidies returned by three corporations should be declared surplus and used to restore cuts in public services; and Mayor Emanuel should hold off on new TIF spending until he can implement his TIF reform panel’s recommendations, groups working on the issue said Tuesday.
News broke Monday that CME, CNA and Bank of America were returning a combined $33 million, CME saying it didn’t need the money now that the state has cut its taxes, CNA and Bank of America admitting they hadn’t met job creation goals.
CME had been the target of a series of protests by Grassroots Collaborative, which on different occasions set up a classroom outside the corporate headquarters to dramatize lost school funding, declared the site a “corporate crime scene,” and held a bake sale for the corporation. Last week Stand Up Chicago delivered a golden toilet to CME, which was to get $15 million for a luxury bathroom, cafe, and fitness center.
Restore public services
“With communities reeling from proposed school closings, cuts to libraries, and the shutdown of six mental health clinics, the $33 million dollars should be immediately returned to critical public services that working families of Chicago depend on, and not redirected back to downtown TIF slush funds,” said Amisha Patel.
She said the news reflects the impact of groups working to highlight the issue of corporate subsidies and tax breaks.
Also Monday, Emanuel announced he would create an online TIF database and order random independent audits of TIFs. It was his first action on the recomendations of his TIF reform panel since its report last August.
Illinois PIRG released a report calling on Emanuel to fully implement the panel’s recommendations as a first step toward TIF reform, and to declare a moratorium on new TIF spending until the reforms are in place.
“If the Mayor and the City Council admit that TIF is broken, why would they continue to use the program before it gets fixed?” said Celeste Meiffren, author of the report.
Subsidies keep coming
Since the panel’s report, the City Council has approved $26 million in TIF spending, and the city has submitted proposals for another $17 million in TIF projects, she said.
Many more corporations could be falling short of job-creation promises attached to TIF subsidies they’ve received. Meiffrin pointed out that the city has yet to fully implement the TIF Sunshine Ordinance passed in 2009 – and one item missing from every TIF report is the annual employment certificate that recipients are required to file.
She also called for a law requiring companies that fail to meet job-creation agreements to return TIF subsidies. “Right now there’s no guarantee that if companies don’t deliver, taxpayers will get the money back,” she said.
Her report emphasizes the importance of including TIF spending in the city budget and calls for measures beyond the reform panel’s recommendations, including limiting TIF use to areas that need economic development; limiting TIF diversions to property value growth apart from inflation; closing TIF districts that have met their redevelopment goals; and returning unused TIF accumulations to the general property tax pool.
Emanuel’s reform panel “didn’t get at the real issue,” which is the diversion of resources from public services and community development to corporate subsidies, Patel said.
She called on Emanuel to “ensure that this money not only immediately goes to keep our schools, libraries, and clinics open, but that downtown TIF districts like LaSalle Central no longer continue to funnel hard-earned tax dollars to Chicago’s corporate elite.”
Protests continue at CME
On Friday, February 3, CME will again be the target of protests, as Chicago Jobs With Justice rallies at the State of Illinois building at noon and marches to the Chicago Board of Trade, demanding a financial transaction tax as a way of putting teachers back to work.
They say a $1 tax on each contract at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Board of Trade – a negligible charge, since contracts average $200,000 in value – would raise $6 billion a year for the state.
And Stand Up Chicago is continuing pressure on CME over its huge state tax break, calling on the corporation to “continue to reevaluate its desire for taxpayer subsidies” and “return the millions in public money it has taken over the years back to our communities.”
“Returning TIF money is a good start, but CME still has a long way to go before it can truly give up its crown as Chicago’s king of corporate welfare,” said Elizabeth Parisian.