Getting Tough on TIF

March 5th, 2012 at 9:45 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

Indianapolis is copying Chicago.

Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, wanted his city to review its use of Tax Increment Financing — more simply known as TIF.  The concept is an economic development tool with a variant of  Vegas:  What’s taxed in the TIF, stays in the TIF.  Emanuel felt the funds collected by the system had been misused by his predecessor.  Therefore, Chicago established a Tax Increment Financing review panel.

The Chicago Tribune reported, in September, the panel found ”there’s no meaningful way of measuring how many jobs were created by the TIFs or how much private investment was leveraged … and this data is not presented in an easy to access or understand format.”

Similar reasoning inspired a push for a TIF review in Indianapolis.  City-County Councillor Brian Mahern told me recently we need to know “what’s worked well and what hasn’t worked so well.”  It’s a subject that drew no objections in the council chamber.  It passed 27-0, tonight.   Mahern was joined by each of his fellow Democrats — and all of the council’s Republicans — to approve the creation of a study commission to examine the use of tax increment financing in Indianapolis. 

Mahern told me he wants the study since a TIF district affects “the ability of libraries and our public transportation and our city to fund itself because it does divert revenue away from those other community priorities.”  He also said he wants the districts’ information to be more accessible than it is now.  He suggested “we can collaborate together to find a better way to do things.”

Eight people will be appointed to the new review commission.  Their first recommendations will be due by the end of next month.  A final reported is expected by June 30th.


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