Jim Dodge, Republican candidate for state treasurer, can think of millions of reasons why taxpayers might not be willing to give lawmakers in Springfield the benefit of the doubt when it comes to anything tax related.
“Ordinarily, you might be open to anything that has the chance to bring jobs or tourism to the state, but with the way local government does its math you always have to be skeptical here in Illinois,” Dodge told the Prairie State Wire. “It’s clear to me that the policy makers here don’t do math, at least not well.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reports state officials have shelled out at least $420 million in state tax breaks to TV and film production companies over the last decade as part of a grand effort to attract a larger share of that market to Illinois.
Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs
Approximately 1,817 companies have reaped the incentives, though what they did to earn the money remains a mystery. The Sun-Times reports lawmakers have never inspected the books of any of the companies involved in the program.
“That would be mind-boggling,” said Dodge, running against incumbent Mike Frerichs in November’s general election. “Especially, when you consider we’re talking gifting millions in benefits to an industry that typically doesn’t need a whole lot of tax breaks. I always say if you’re going to put taxpayer dollars into a project like this you better make sure they are getting something back in the deal.”
With Illinois being Illinois, Dodge said he isn’t surprised to hear about possible corruption tied to the program.
Federal prosecutors recently filed extortion charges against longtime Teamsters boss John T. Coli, alleging that he swindled at least $325,000 from Cinespace Chicago Film Studios co-founder Alex Pissios by threatening to stage work stoppages at the West Side studio where such productions as “Chicago Fire” and “Empire” are filmed, the Deadline Hollywood website states.
Coli and Pissios’ connection spans several years, with Coli introducing Pissios to several of the Democratic lawmakers who earmarked the $31 million in grants and tax breaks he used to construct Cinespace.
“It bothers me that Springfield would be seemingly going for the cool and glamorous project instead of something that more clearly is in the interest of the people,” Dodge said. “We should be worried about getting the basics right. Getting our financial house in order means investing in our workforce so that we’re able to attract more businesses and people back to the state.”