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Illinois receives “C-” for business subsidy transparency

Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019

* Press release…

Illinois received a “C-” for making critical information about how governments are subsidizing business projects with taxpayer dollars readily available to the public online, according to a new report from Illinois PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. Following the Money 2019, the organization’s tenth evaluation of online government spending transparency, gives 17 states a failing grade, while only four states received a grade of “B” or higher.

Illinois received an “C-” grade because researchers could not find any statewide grants report, nor reporting on whether or not economic development subsidies are producing the promised benefits, among other scoring criteria.

“As taxpayers, we should be able to see how government spends our money down to the dime,” said Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG Education Fund Director. “That includes the billions of dollars that state and local governments give away each year to lure businesses into their backyards.”

U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group’s Following the Money reports have evaluated states on online spending transparency since 2010. While many states have made progress towards providing citizens access to government spending information online, this year’s report finds economic development reporting is still lagging behind.

“It’s often easier for citizens to see when a state hands a company $50 for printer ink than when it hands a company a million dollars to relocate its headquarters,” said R.J. Cross, report lead author and policy analyst at Frontier Group. “States have moved light years ahead in the last decade when it comes to providing information on basic government spending online. But when it comes to economic development subsidies, most are still in the dark ages.”

The report graded each state’s transparency efforts from “A” to “F” based on the availability of online reports detailing how much the state spends through tax breaks and direct grant programs; the availability of information on individual payments to companies on the state’s transparency site; and the existence of state laws that require ongoing reporting of information on economic development subsidies to the public.

“Transparency checks corruption and enables citizens to hold their elected officials accountable,” finished Cross. “Without access to information, it’s impossible to know how fully these corporate subsidies are serving the public’s interest.”

According to the report, Ohio is the only state to receive an “A” grading. Three states, including Wisconsin, received a “B.” Illinois was one of 15 states to receive a “C-range” grade. Indiana and Minnesota were among 14 states to receive a “D” grade. Seventeen states, including Michigan, failed.

I’ve asked the governor’s office for comment and will let you know if and/or when they respond.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - @misterjayem - Wednesday, Dec 11, 19 @ 10:48 am:

    Four As & Bs with thirty-one Ds & Fs?

    That is a brutal grading curve.

    – MrJM

  2. - A bored guy - Wednesday, Dec 11, 19 @ 10:52 am:

    “C’s get degrees!”

  3. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Dec 11, 19 @ 11:42 am:

    Republicans are just as bad as Democrats when it comes to this.

  4. - Seats - Wednesday, Dec 11, 19 @ 11:44 am:

    If there are only 4 states doing better than you, it seems to me that you are doing alright.

    Although I’d campaign on being in the top 90% for transparency rather than list my C minus grade, but maybe that wouldn’t be considered very transparent.

  5. - JIbba - Wednesday, Dec 11, 19 @ 1:18 pm:

    “Republicans are just as bad as Democrats”…at most things, really.

    This seems like an easy fix, no? The cost can’t be high other than the outrage when taxpayers find out how much has been given away.

  6. - Facts Matter - Wednesday, Dec 11, 19 @ 4:29 pm:

    After reviewing the Illinois portion of the report, if I understand what they are saying they aren’t alleging that Illinois is hiding information, they don’t like the way it is presented.

    See below from the report:
    Grants report: Half credit was awarded for Illinois’ grants report, as the state’s primary economic development agency, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, publishes annual reports for the programs it administers, but no statewide report could be found.

    Grants report law: While researchers were unable to locate a law requiring the creation of a statewide report or a law requiring the creation of an annual report detailing all economic development grant payments made by the state’s primary economic development agency, Illinois received partial credit in this category for the number of laws it has requiring reports for individual grant programs, such as 30 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 750 / 9-9 and 30 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 750 / 10-9.

    Online portal: Illinois received full points for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s grant tracker.

    Online portal law: No credit was awarded for online portal legislation as no law requiring economic development payments in the online portal could be located.

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