Progress Report: Promised Reforms to Protect Chicago Tax Dollars ‘Incomplete’

Media Contacts

Millions in Tax Dollars Spent While Wait Continues on TIF Reform Panel Recommendations

Illinois PIRG Education Fund

Chicago- Yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he will be immediately implementing some of the reforms proposed by his TIF Reform Panel five months ago. Today, watchdog group Illinois PIRG Education Fund released a report on the need to fix TIF and called for all of the Mayor’s recommendations to become law.

“In Chicago, TIF has gone wildly off-course, becoming a $500 million a year slush fund, instead of a targeted redevelopment program,” said Celeste Meiffren, Field Director with Illinois PIRG Education Fund. “After decades of the public being kept in the dark about how this money is spent, which opened the door to egregious misuse of public money, TIF is in desperate need of reform.”

Illinois PIRG Education Fund’s report “Cleaning Up Tax Increment Financing,” affirms that the first step towards reform is the implementation of the Mayor’s TIF Reform Panel’s recommendations. The Panel’s recommendations include integrating TIF into the overall city budget, placing TIF spending under more democratic control, measuring the performance of TIF districts and projects, and holding developers accountable for delivering on their goals.

“Mayor Emanuel has shown that he is committed to TIF reform by creating this Panel, and their proposed reforms would move the city in the right direction. But it’s not enough to have these ideas on paper or announcing them at press conferences. They need to become law and be rigorously implemented before more of our tax dollars are wasted,” said Meiffren.

According to the City of Chicago website, since the Reform Panel released their recommendations in August, there have been several proposals to use TIF money for redevelopment projects, totaling over $17 million. In the same time period, $26 million in public money was approved by the City to be spent on TIF projects.

“If the Mayor and the City Council admit that TIF is broken, why would they continue to use the program before it gets fixed?” Meiffren asked. “With so many more TIF proposals in the queue and with millions in public money at stake, the City should not wait any longer to act. Until we see the needed reforms passed into law, the City should put a moratorium on all new TIF spending, so no more of our tax dollars are wasted.”