SRP-IMAGE-Logo

Enterprise Zones’ Worth Overdue for Assessment

Editor: In the state of Illinois’ current economic climate, it is important to help businesses create and retain jobs needed to revitalize our economy. But there must be assurances that the state is making responsible investments.

We must critically examine economic development tools currently being used to ensure state dollars are being used efficiently and the taxpayers are getting the best return on every incentive.

Enterprise zones are one incentive overdue for scrutiny. In 1982, the Legislature created an economic development program allowing for the establishment of 20-year enterprise zones, later extended to 30 years, throughout Illinois. These zones offer a number of tax benefits to businesses, including sales tax exemptions for building materials, a utility tax exemption, various tax deductions, and local tax incentives.

Next summer, these enterprise zones will begin to expire. While reviewing the program, it became clear that the current system of establishing and monitoring enterprise zones lacks the necessary transparency, oversight and accountability. If Illinois is going to improve its economic situation while protecting taxpayer dollars, state government must do a better job of evaluating such programs and making sure tax dollars are used wisely and for their intended purpose, which in the case of enterprise zones is to boost the economy and create jobs.

As this op-ed was being written, the respected Pew Center on the States issued a new national study concluding that most states, including Illinois, do not have a thorough incentive evaluation process. The report, ÒEvidence Counts, Evaluating State Tax Incentives for Jobs and Growth,” is a good read for anyone interested and involved in this debate. One conclusion author Jeff Chapman makes is that Òpolicy- makers should know whether these tools deliver a strong return on their investment. Regular, rigorous and comprehensive evaluations of tax incentives are critical for their ability to do so.”

The Illinois House is considering an enterprise zone reform package, which I support, that strengthens the ways in which taxpayer dollars are used to help spur the state and local economies.

HB4189 as amended will establish a standardized monitoring method for enterprise zones. Proposed areas would be required to meet a set of much stronger criteria to achieve designation, including tough job creation standards, such as creating or retaining a minimum of 1,000 full-time jobs. New criteria that gears economic incentives to areas where the assistance is needed most will also be featured.

Currently, a zone has a 30-year life. The proposal will authorize a new, 10-year enterprise zone each time one of the current zones expires. All areas of the state will have the opportunity to competitively bid for the new zones and no preference will be given to an area simply because it was an enterprise zone previously. This will ensure more accountability of taxpayer dollars and give us a greater opportunity to evaluate whether the zones are performing as expected.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity now has sole discretion to site enterprise zones. Leaving such important decisions in the hands of state bureaucrats is not always desirable. Instead, the proposed reforms call for the formation of an enterprise zone board made up of appointees who would be more accountable to the public. The board may give preference to high poverty and unemployment areas, or proposals with widespread public support and specific plans for economic growth.

Finally, the reform proposal requires maintaining and reporting itemized records for each transaction that is eligible for a tax benefit, as well as the posting of more information regarding each zone’s activities and boundaries on their public Web sites. The reform proposal also requires sales exemptions to be given as refunds, as opposed to point-of-sale exemptions, further insulating the program against fraud and abuse.

A recent hearing on a plan pending in the Illinois Senate to grant 25-year renewals to the existing 95 zones brought on calls for fresh oversight. While the enterprise zones are credited with creating between 750,000 and 900,000 jobs over the last 30 years, and spurring billions in investments, no one – not even the DCEO in its annual report – charts how much the state loses in revenues from businesses within these zones.

With Illinois’ severe budget limitations, every program utilizing or abating tax revenues needs a full review. Reforms in the enterprise zone program are required to ensure tax dollars are being spent wisely and in a manner that properly steers job creation efforts throughout the state. As we work to strengthen Illinois’ economy and create jobs and prosperity, it is critical that we continue to hold those receiving tax incentives to higher standards.

– Michael J. Madigan

Speaker, Illinois House of Representatives

Local News

Richards High School Bands Director Jordan Fransler will be running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 9, raising money for Miracle Network Dance Marathon. (Supplied photos)

Richards teacher to tackle the Chicago Marathon

By Kelly White As bands director at Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Jordan Fransler’s days are filled with education and music, but that’s not all. In his free time, the talented teacher likes to put on his running shoes. “Running became one of my favorite hobbies several years ago. It started out as a…

SRP-IMAGE-Logo

Mount Carmel tested in win over Brother Rice

By Steve Millar Correspondent After Mount Carmel beat each of its first five opponents by 24 points or more, senior quarterback Blainey Dowling thinks it is good the Caravan had to fight to the end against an upset-minded Brother Rice team. Dowling ran for the game-winning 15-yard touchdown with 1:58 left to lift Mount Carmel…

In just its second year as a team, St. Laurence's girls golfers won a regional title. Photo courtesy of St. Laurence

Area Sports Roundup: St. Laurence golfers make history

By Jeff Vorva Staff Writer   That didn’t take long. The St. Laurence girls golf program is in only its second year of existence but last weekend celebrated a major accomplishment. Coach Jim Tracy’s troops won the Providence Catholic Class 1A Regional by four strokes, logging a 372 to edge University High (Chicago), which finished…

SXU coach Mike Feminis reacts as the final horn goes off as he earns his 200th career win in a thriller over 18th-ranked Roosevelt. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Pigskin Wrap: St. Xavier tops Roosevelt in thriller, gets Feminis career win No. 200

By Jeff Vorva Staff writer Saint Xavier coach Mike Feminis was gunning for his 200th career victory, but it looked more like he might be tagged with his 78th career loss. After wasting a 14-point halftime lead, the Cougars found themselves down six in the closing minute of the Homecoming game Oct. 1 at Bruce…

CRRNH_Carnevil02_100522

Halloween’s dark side

Carnevil on 64th promises grisly, gory, ghoulish frights By Cosmo Hadac Those passing the home at 5716 W. 64th St. this month may see the grave of Pennywise the Clown or Freddy Krueger dancing to the Monster Mash. What started out as a way to celebrate Halloween during the pandemic’s social distancing mandates has expanded…

Joan Hadac

Don’t take senior center for granted

By Joan Hadac Your correspondent in Clearing and Garfield Ridge (708) 496-0265 • [email protected] I’m back. Thank you, Patti Tyznik, for filling in and giving me a week off. I hope this becomes a regular thing! Nominations are now open for officers to serve on the board of directors of the Southwest Side Senior Service Organization,…

Orland firefighters show how they extinguish a burning building. (Photos by Steve Neuhaus)

Community turns out to salute Orland firefighters at open house

Nearly 500 people attended an open house hosted by the Orland Fire Protection District on Saturday that featured an up-close look at the techniques firefighters use to respond to emergencies. Demonstrations by firefighters included a rope rescue showing how individuals can be rescued from apartment buildings; the dive team demonstrated how they can rescue individuals from…

recycling logo

Palos Township hosts recycling event Saturday

Palos Township and the Cook County Sheriff’s Recycling Program are holding a paper, electronics and drug recycling event on Saturday, October 1, at Township Hall, 10802 S. Roberts Road in Palos Hills. Township residents only are eligible to bring paper for shredding, electronics for recycling and unwanted or expired drugs for proper disposal from 9…

Livia Mitre, 9, of Beverly, was happy to be a part of Lake Katherine's Monarch Celebration.

Butterflies are king at Lake Katherine Monarch Celebration

By Kelly White Kicking off the fall season with a festival dedicated to the beautiful Monarch butterfly was Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanical Garden. The nature center, located at 7402 Lake Katherine Drive, Palos Heights, held its 29th annual Monarch Celebration, on Saturday, September 24, and Sunday, September 25. Originally called a Monarch Butterfly…

Three aldermen (from left)--Raymond Lopez, Silvana Tabares and Anthony Napolitano—stand alone in City Council last week, as their resolution to hold a hearing on the SAFE-T Act failed to muster any votes other than their own. --Supplied photo

Lopez, Tabares threaten ‘no cash bail’ hearing

Claim law may release ‘violent, repeat offenders’ By Tim Hadac Two Southwest Side aldermen are threatening to defy their City Council colleagues and hold hearings on the impact of the state’s controversial SAFE-T Act on criminal justice. Fifteenth Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez and 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares joined 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano last…

Neighbors

DVN JCs Restoration House Ad
Richards High School Bands Director Jordan Fransler will be running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 9, raising money for Miracle Network Dance Marathon. (Supplied photos)

Richards teacher to tackle the Chicago Marathon

By Kelly White As bands director at Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Jordan Fransler’s days are filled with education and music, but that’s not all. In his free time, the talented teacher likes to put on his running shoes. “Running became one of my favorite hobbies several years ago. It started out as a…

SRP-IMAGE-Logo

Mount Carmel tested in win over Brother Rice

By Steve Millar Correspondent After Mount Carmel beat each of its first five opponents by 24 points or more, senior quarterback Blainey Dowling thinks it is good the Caravan had to fight to the end against an upset-minded Brother Rice team. Dowling ran for the game-winning 15-yard touchdown with 1:58 left to lift Mount Carmel…

In just its second year as a team, St. Laurence's girls golfers won a regional title. Photo courtesy of St. Laurence

Area Sports Roundup: St. Laurence golfers make history

By Jeff Vorva Staff Writer   That didn’t take long. The St. Laurence girls golf program is in only its second year of existence but last weekend celebrated a major accomplishment. Coach Jim Tracy’s troops won the Providence Catholic Class 1A Regional by four strokes, logging a 372 to edge University High (Chicago), which finished…

SXU coach Mike Feminis reacts as the final horn goes off as he earns his 200th career win in a thriller over 18th-ranked Roosevelt. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Pigskin Wrap: St. Xavier tops Roosevelt in thriller, gets Feminis career win No. 200

By Jeff Vorva Staff writer Saint Xavier coach Mike Feminis was gunning for his 200th career victory, but it looked more like he might be tagged with his 78th career loss. After wasting a 14-point halftime lead, the Cougars found themselves down six in the closing minute of the Homecoming game Oct. 1 at Bruce…

CRRNH_Carnevil02_100522

Halloween’s dark side

Carnevil on 64th promises grisly, gory, ghoulish frights By Cosmo Hadac Those passing the home at 5716 W. 64th St. this month may see the grave of Pennywise the Clown or Freddy Krueger dancing to the Monster Mash. What started out as a way to celebrate Halloween during the pandemic’s social distancing mandates has expanded…

Joan Hadac

Don’t take senior center for granted

By Joan Hadac Your correspondent in Clearing and Garfield Ridge (708) 496-0265 • [email protected] I’m back. Thank you, Patti Tyznik, for filling in and giving me a week off. I hope this becomes a regular thing! Nominations are now open for officers to serve on the board of directors of the Southwest Side Senior Service Organization,…

Orland firefighters show how they extinguish a burning building. (Photos by Steve Neuhaus)

Community turns out to salute Orland firefighters at open house

Nearly 500 people attended an open house hosted by the Orland Fire Protection District on Saturday that featured an up-close look at the techniques firefighters use to respond to emergencies. Demonstrations by firefighters included a rope rescue showing how individuals can be rescued from apartment buildings; the dive team demonstrated how they can rescue individuals from…

recycling logo

Palos Township hosts recycling event Saturday

Palos Township and the Cook County Sheriff’s Recycling Program are holding a paper, electronics and drug recycling event on Saturday, October 1, at Township Hall, 10802 S. Roberts Road in Palos Hills. Township residents only are eligible to bring paper for shredding, electronics for recycling and unwanted or expired drugs for proper disposal from 9…

Livia Mitre, 9, of Beverly, was happy to be a part of Lake Katherine's Monarch Celebration.

Butterflies are king at Lake Katherine Monarch Celebration

By Kelly White Kicking off the fall season with a festival dedicated to the beautiful Monarch butterfly was Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanical Garden. The nature center, located at 7402 Lake Katherine Drive, Palos Heights, held its 29th annual Monarch Celebration, on Saturday, September 24, and Sunday, September 25. Originally called a Monarch Butterfly…

Three aldermen (from left)--Raymond Lopez, Silvana Tabares and Anthony Napolitano—stand alone in City Council last week, as their resolution to hold a hearing on the SAFE-T Act failed to muster any votes other than their own. --Supplied photo

Lopez, Tabares threaten ‘no cash bail’ hearing

Claim law may release ‘violent, repeat offenders’ By Tim Hadac Two Southwest Side aldermen are threatening to defy their City Council colleagues and hold hearings on the impact of the state’s controversial SAFE-T Act on criminal justice. Fifteenth Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez and 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares joined 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano last…

DVN First United Realtors House Ad
CRR NH Rainbow Motel House Ad