If Lightfoot is serious about TIF reform, she should sunset downtown TIF districts early, which would return $400 million annually for schools, parks, libraries, the city budget and other projects.
CHICAGO, Feb. 5, 2020—The Chicago Teachers Union released the following statement today addressing Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plans for TIF reform.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot claims that her plans for tax increment financing (TIF) reform will focus money on the neighborhoods that need these funds the most, at the same time that she plans to end her predecessor’s ban on new TIF projects in the central LaSalle Street area. In another contradiction, the mayor says that she will impose stricter standards so that TIF funds are only used for projects that wouldn’t go forward “but for” the city’s support, while at the same time, fights a lawsuit by community groups to implement a robust “but for” clause.
Chicago should use TIFs to build affordable housing, and provide resources for schools and programs in the neighborhoods that need them most, and not line the pockets of some of the city’s most profitable corporations. When the mayor’s press release says that TIFs should be used for affordable housing, then her spokespeople tell reporters that funds are better spent on infrastructure, it is a slap in the face to organizations fighting to provide for residents in the city’s most underserved communities.
In now-predictable fashion, the mayor advanced these “reforms” without any input from these organizations and other stakeholders who have been working on TIFs and related issues for more than a decade. It is also worth noting that though Lightfoot now talks of holding big developers accountable, she gave a green light to Lincoln Yards and The 78 developments to the tune of more than $2 billion—even though no one thinks these developments would pass the “but for” test.
If the mayor is truly serious about TIF reform, she should sunset downtown TIF districts early, which would return $400 million annually for schools, parks, libraries, the city budget and other projects. This is especially important while Chicago Public Schools is undertaking a review of its budgeting process, and at a time when our school district is underfunded by $2.4 billion annually, according to the State of Illinois.