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Corporations Returning TIF Money To City

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 31, 2012 3:30PM

Image Credit: Ajit Chouhan

Yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the implementation of tax increment financing reforms aimed at strengthening the transparency and accountability of TIF districts. Emanuel's announcement came five months after a panel sent him a list of proposed reforms.

There have been several proposals to use TIF money for redevelopment projects, totaling over $17 million, according to the City's website. In the same time period, $26 million in public money was approved by the City to be spent on TIF projects. Yesterday, three corporations returned a total of $34 million in TIF funds to the City.

CME Group returned $15 million it no longer needed because of the tax breaks it received by the Illinois General Assembly. (Emanuel Administration officials denied any connection between the two.) CNA Group is returning $13.7 million it received in December 2008 to renovate its 333 S. Wabash headquarters, but used the money to renovate and lease space it no longer needed after a corporate restructuring. Bank of America is returning nearly $5.4 million it received to take over a TIF redevelopment agreement for 540 W. Madison from ABN AMRO, requiring them to honor ABN’s job promises.

Lest someone think any of these corporations are being benevolent in returning the TIF money, consider this: both the BofA and CNA TIF deals were tied to jobs creation. In 2009, BofA reported it created 2,739 jobs, then later said it "overstated" that number by including the jobs for an on-site consultancy. CNA was supposed to maintain at least 2,700 employees at its headquarters through 2018, but missed that mark for all of 2010.

Celest Meiffren, Field Director with Illinois PIRG, said in a statement Emanuel's announcements aren't enough.

“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.”