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Editorial Board Calls for Tax Increment Financing Reform in Chicago

The Chicago Tribune says the city of Chicago can't be trusted with tax increment financing (TIF), so it's time for a do-over.
June 25, 2019, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Chicago, Illinois
Antwon McMullen

"Chicago has a long history of abusing the TIF law. More recently, though less egregiously, the city has expanded the purpose of TIFs to help spearhead major projects in dormant areas that are ripe for redevelopment," reads an editorial by the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board.

The editorial refrains from a singular bashing of all TIFs, stating that TIF abuse declined during the tenure of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel compared to the tenure of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and that recent mega-projects receiving TIF benefits, like Lincoln Yards and "The 78," are good uses of TIF, even if the current rules are unclear about the definitions of key terms like "blight."

But the big argument of the editorial is that the city should not be participating in every development that comes to town. Instead, Chicago needs a TIF do-over that returns to the original mission: "reviving neighborhoods suffering from real, discernible blight and disinvestment."

"TIFs with projects that no longer need a helping hand should be phased out, so that those tax dollars can get channeled back to [Chicago Public Schools] and other taxing bodies. City Hall’s process for deciding how TIF money is used also needs reform. Decision-making on how funds are spent is too opaque," according to the editorial. 

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Published on Monday, June 24, 2019 in Chicago Tribune
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