Tuesday, November 13, 2007

TIFs - Ain't we ready for reform?

(With apologies to the late, great Chicago alderman Paddy Bauler....)

The Civic Federation feels we need more information and public input on tax increment financing. According to this story, the Federation feels that TIFs are an important tool but need more transparency in how they are done and what they accomplish. In Chicago, "$242.6 million in public subsidies generated $1.1 billion in private investment — a more than 4-to-1 ratio-in the Central Loop TIF district." Not bad, though the Federation questions how much of that development would have been done without TIFs.

I have been part of several deals involving TIFs in Chicago, and I don't think any of them could have been done without some help. And they've been, by and large, very successful projects that have brought jobs and renovated blighted buildings.

That does not mean I disagree 100% with the Federation. I have seen some deals, typically outside Chicago than in, that have a questionable benefit for a TIF district. Farm land is blighted? The retailers are just moving from one part of town to another to take advantage of the tax breaks? Get out your Smell-O-Meter.

So are TIFs ready for reform in Illinois? Probably not yet. But I think it would be good to separate some wheat from the chaff.