STUMP » Articles » Illinois and Chicago Round-Up: Soda Taxes, Holding Legislation Hostage, Tiffs over TIFs and More! » 25 July 2017, 12:55

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Illinois and Chicago Round-Up: Soda Taxes, Holding Legislation Hostage, Tiffs over TIFs and More!  


25 July 2017, 12:55

Let us call this the “meep is swamped” link dump. I was working on four separate blog posts, and frankly, what I can do is provide a short summary of each issue, and provide you links to the various stories and/or commentary.

Because I’m really sick of commenting on how fucked up Chicago and Illinois are. I have so many more fucked up situations to comment on!


Short version: Cook County (Chicago’s county) is super-thirsty for some sweet sweet tax revenue, but how to do that while not being the baddie in an already overtaxed populace?

Tax soda! That’ll show the fatties! Uh, I mean, that will provide incentives for people to reduce their soda consumption…. which will reduce the tax revenue… uh, how have cigarette taxes worked out, again?

And how have soda taxes worked out in other areas?

Philadelphia Soda Tax Leads To 30-50% Plunge In Sales, Mass Layoffs… oh.

Since this is Illinois, they couldn’t pass a simple soda tax without screwing it all up: the way the tax is imposed is idiotic, all of a sudden they remember they can’t impose this if the buyer is using food stamps (aka SNAP), and then there’s a bunch of lawsuits saying it’s discriminatorily imposed because not all sellers of soda have to do this.

Oh, and it’s illegal to put a tax on a tax in Illinois, so sales tax could not be imposed on top of the soda tax. It’s an operational mess.

And one of the lawsuits is delaying the imposition of the tax, so Cook County is “forced” to lay off people.

Also, Rauner is a meanie.

Here’s a boatload of related links:

There’s probably a lot more commentary out there on the soda tax, but I can dump those when we actually find out if the soda tax is completely eradicated due to its illegality.


I really wish Illinois would pipe down for a while. But as Mish notes, in a state where 4 governors went to federal prison in the past 40 years, you can’t really be surprised in how this all “works”.

So, the Illinois legislature passed the budget over Governor Rauner’s veto.

But here comes the real poison pill: Senate Bill 1.

This one is a lot more complicated than the soda tax snafu. But I’m going to write even less and you can follow the links for the explainers.

Basically, there’s one part of the budget bill that requires additional legislation to enact — how school funding is distributed among the disparate parties. That legislation was actually passed at the end of May. I mean, it’s Senate Bill 1 for crying out loud. It’s the first bill!

So what’s the big deal, eh?

Well, there’s a big fat sweetener for the Chicago Public School System in the bill, and Governor Rauner said he’s not going to let that through. And the Democrats, while they did have enough turncoat Republicans to override Rauner’s veto, don’t look like they’ve got enough votes YET to override such a veto. It’s some kind of line-item veto or amendatory veto or something.

Oh, and there are parties making arguments that Rauner can’t legally amendatorily veto the bill. I have no clue. I barely know the U.S. Constitutional quirks; I’m not about to dip into the Illinois state constitution (again).

Okay, well fight out the veto power in the Illinois Supreme Court or whatever.

But here’s the kick-in-the-pants: Rauner hasn’t vetoed the bill in any kind of manner, yet. Because Cullerton, the guy in charge of the state Senate, hasn’t sent him the bill.

Oh, and there’s some kind of drop-dead school funding deadline on August 4 or some such. The betting is that Cullerton holds the bill hostage until the day before. Or something similarly weasely. Like they did with the budget crap… the budget that they could have passed and overturned the veto on for years before this particular political theater.

Here are some links:

Okay, let me excerpt from that last one:

As part of the new budget, school funding is to be allocated based upon a new evidence-based model. Senate Bill 1 is the model that needs to be signed. Governor Rauner said it passed the Illinois House and Senate six weeks ago, but has not been sent to his desk for his signature.

“They’re sitting on it, holding it until August to force a crisis to force taxpayers of Illinois to fund a bailout of Chicago pensions,” he said.

The governor said school districts such as Belleville, Edwardsville, Collinsville, and Granite City will have millions of dollars taken away from them over time and given to Chicago pensions.

Oh, and to tie over to my next item…


Slush fund hits record amounts as Chicago looks to the state for a bailout.

Tax increment financing, or TIF, districts in Chicago generated a record $561 million in 2016, up nearly 22 percent from 2015, according to the Cook County clerk. As long as Chicago’s TIF program continues, Chicago Public Schools won’t see a dime of this revenue.

A TIF district is a special economic zone the mayor effectively controls, and property tax revenue above a certain level from any property located in a TIF goes directly to a special fund the mayor can use to encourage developers to undertake projects.

That leaves taxing bodies such as CPS scrambling for funding to make up for the revenue diverted to TIF funds. And while TIFs are bringing in record amounts of revenue, CPS has turned to the state to make up for its budget shortfall in the form of Senate Bill 1, which would provide a $215 million annual pension bailout and other carve-outs worth millions to CPS. This would force downstate taxpayers to bail out Chicago after more than 20 years of district mismanagement, skipped pension payments, excessive borrowing and unaffordable teacher contracts.

That brings me to…


As mentioned above, TIFs are Tax-Increment Financing, which is a lovely little developer slush fund.

Oh, that’s not how they were sold originally. They were to be used to providing financing for improving blighted areas. Supposedly.

Well, it seems that there may be an email trail showing just how the slushies get made with the slush fund, with money going to some fancy hotels instead of improving blighted districts in Chicago.

Kudos to the Better Government Association, who investigated the situation — and kicked off the controversy on Friday:


Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration signed off on an elaborate financial shell game that obscured payment of $55 million for renovations at Navy Pier with tax dollars reserved to fight urban blight, records show.

The bookkeeping jiujitsu appears to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the controversial tax-increment financing program, which critics say has been widely abused and not used for its intended purpose of spurring development in or near economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

A joint investigation by the Better Government Association and Crain’s Chicago Business finds that the administration began filtering the money in 2014 through a hotel project at McCormick Place, capitalizing on its Near South Side location as a rationale for tapping funds reserved for struggling communities.

More items on the investigation.

Quote from that last:

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), whose ward includes McCormick Place, has called for City Council hearings, and other aldermen also voiced their outrage on Monday.
Ald. John Arena (45th) said the Emanuel administration lied to aldermen about how the $55 million in TIF money would be used.

“We were lied to. Alderman Dowell in the 3rd Ward was lied to in public and in private. They perjured themselves to us about this money, and then openly in city emails they discussed the laundering of the money from that project to this tourist trap. This is unconscionable,” Arena (45th) said.

Several students, teachers, and activists joined aldermen on Monday, noting the $55 million transfer took place in 2013, at the same time the Emanuel administration was closing dozens of public schools it deemed underutilized.

Critics said the money in question shouldn’t have been used for a hotel near McCormick Place in the first place, and instead should have gone to struggling public schools.

Alize Vijil, with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, said Navy Pier should return the TIF money it received.

“Our money should go into education, not into golden hot dogs,” Vijil said.

Well, well, well.


Some leftover recent stories that are interesting, but don’t merit their own sections:

Oh fun. Means I’ll never run out of blogging material.

Compilation of Chicago posts

Compilation of Illinois posts

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