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Taxes
PI Original
by Micah Maidenberg
1:38pm
Fri Oct 1, 2010

Wait, What Are TIFs Again? (VIDEO)

The City of Chicago tax increment financing (TIF) program may be heading toward some big changes as longtime Mayor Richard Daley leaves office. We review the basics of TIF and its problems.

PI Original
by Adam Doster
12:17pm
Thu Sep 30, 2010

Would Kirk Block Everything In The Lame Duck Session? (VIDEO)

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk thinks Senate Democrats are going to "overreach" during their upcoming lame duck session. And he wants to win Illinois' special election to stop them.

PI Original
by Adam Doster
2:57pm
Wed Sep 29, 2010

Job Creation Dominates First Guv Debate (VIDEO)

Gov. Pat Quinn and GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady clashed on the state budget and economic strategies in their first scheduled debate.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
9:47am
Wed Sep 29, 2010

Tax Amnesty Begins Friday

If you haven't paid your taxes recently, you're in luck. On Friday, Illinois plans to roll out its 2010 tax amnesty plan. Delinquent taxpayers will have five weeks -- from October 1 to November 8 -- to pay the state unpaid back taxes accrued between July 2002 to July 2009 without facing fines. The Illinois Department of Revenue estimates that 200,000 people either owe money to the state or could owe based on federal tax records. Supporters say it will provide state government with one-time revenue burst of $250 million.

There's some research that suggests tax amnesty plans place future revenues at risk by "devaluing compliance" with state tax collectors. (That's the reason Gov. Pat Quinn was initially ambivalent about the proposal.) But with so much debt hanging over our heads, it's a risk lawmakers were willing to take.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
9:11am
Fri Sep 24, 2010

Rahm The TIF Reformer?

Buried yesterday in an otherwise blustery Politico story on Rahm Emanuel's potential mayoral run was this tiny and fascinating piece of news:

On Wednesday night, Emanuel broke bread with his replacement in Congress, Rep. Michael Quigley, who briefed him on an arcane but important local tax issue.

Rep. Quigley, for those with short memories, used to serve on Cook County's Board of Commissioners. While there, he lead the charge for county-wide tax increment financing (TIF) reform, penning an influential report on the topic in 2007. As a Progress Illinois guest columnist in 2008, he wrote about the importance of TIF transparency. One of his reform proposals -- indexing the local tax base to inflation -- served as one of the pillars for our first "Getting Creative with TIFs" post. When Quigley talks TIFs, he's worth listening to.

If that's the "local tax issue" they discussed, let's hope Rahm took solid notes ...

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
12:36pm
Thu Sep 23, 2010

Will The Bush Tax Cuts Live On?

Don't expect a vote on the Bush-era tax cuts before the November election. That's what U.S. Senate aides are telling multiple outlets in Washington. This is a blow for the Obama administration, which wanted to extend the tax cuts for everyone except those making over $250,000 annually before voters went to the polls.

The next tax vote will likely take place during the lame-duck session. That means either State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias or U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk -- who will appear on ballot for Illinois' special election -- will have a say in the debate. And their positions don't align. Kirk wants to see the tax relief extended to all Americans, even though it would blow a major hole in the national deficit. Giannoulias sides with Obama. This week, the Democrat even unveiled a new website --700billionreasons.com -- that lets users pick how they would spend the $700 billion that would land in the laps of the nation's wealthiest 2 percent over the next decade if Kirk gets his way.

Where do Illinois voters come down on this issue? SEIU (whose Illinois State Council sponsors this website) recently polled likely voters in seven battleground states, including Illinois. They found that 53 percent of respondents in the Land of Lincoln backed Giannoulias' option. Only 32 percent thought the tax cuts should remain in place for all income levels. (Another 9 percent, for what it's worth, thought they all should expire.) Read the full results here.

PI Original
by Adam Doster
10:43am
Thu Sep 23, 2010

The Responsible Budget Coalition Turns One (AUDIO)

One year after its inception, the Responsible Budget Coalition is still fighting hard for a sustainable state budget solution. Will lawmakers ever listen?

Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
11:15am
Wed Sep 22, 2010

The Park District's Budget Deficit And TIF

Another day, another local public sector budget deeply in the red. This time it's the Chicago Park District's turn. As the Sun-Times reported on Monday, the district is facing a $22 million budget gap in what's expected to be an estimated $400 million spending plan for next year. The district is considering fee hikes, employee furlough days, and delaying projects to close the shortfall. Layoffs are on the table, but park district superintendent Tim Mitchell has ruled out a property tax hike.

Of course, the City of Chicago's tax increment financing account is stuffed with anywhere from $700 million to $1 billion, and the park district is one of the taxing agencies within Cook County that would get a boost if the city's TIF dollars were declared surplus. The park district's share of the local property tax pie has slipped to 6.71 percent, according to the Sun-Times. Even so, that means declaring Chicago's TIF dollars as surplus could result in a windfall of $49 million to $61 million for the agency, more than covering the present deficit. 

Much of the debate about the future of the city's TIF reserves this summer and fall has focused on how a surplus would boost Chicago Public Schools and the city's own budget. Parks shouldn't be left out of the discussion. Parks still offer plenty of opportunities for free entertainment. That's especially important during hard economic times.