Tue March 19, 2013
Lawmaker Wants To "Privatize" State Agency
Governor Pat Quinn's administration is fighting to keep control of its economic development arm. Legislators are debating whether to move it to a private model.
Illinois' success at keeping and attracting companies remains under scrutiny, especially since Sears and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange won tax breaks in late 2011 after threatening to leave the state.
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity was recently cited in a state audit for weakness in administering grants.
"We need to retool this agency, and we need to give it the tools it needs to succeed, because we have high unemployment in too many parts of this state."
-- State Sen. Andy Manar
State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Staunton, is sponsoring legislation that essentially would privatize the agency. The governor would appoint a board of directors to handle bureaucratic functions, and a new, nonprofit corporation would take on duties like grants. DCEO interim director Adam Pollet says that raises concerns over conflicts of interest.
"What will it look like for a company to be applying to the Authority for tax credits when one of the members of the Board of Directors is a competitor? How will that play out?"
Pollet says Manar's privatization plan reduces accountability while adding bureaucracy.
Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky contributed to this report.