Breen questions TV, film tax incentives, calls for skeptical review of all breaks
Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) tries to keep an open mind in the debate over what it might take to rescue Illinois from the brink of financial ruin.
“Considering we’re $200 billion in debt, the state has to be willing to take a careful look at things like tax incentive programs,” Breen told the DuPage Policy Journal. “The film industry is one of those sectors that regularly garners tax incentives. To me, the test we need to be mindful of is will we bring in more tax money than we put out by offering these incentives?”
The Chicago Sun-Times reports over the past decade lawmakers in Illinois have served up $420 million in state tax breaks to TV and film companies, all with an eye toward capturing more of that market for the state.
A total of 1,817 television and film production companies have been granted such incentives, though what they did to earn them remains a mystery, as the state has never reviewed the spreadsheets of any of the companies benefiting, the Sun-Times states.
“A carefully coordinated tax incentive program can work for people, but we’ve seen so many poorly executed that I take a hard, skeptical look at any that comes before me,” said Breen, running for re-election against Democrat Terra Costa Howard in the 48th District. “Certainly, in an ideal world, lawmakers would make Illinois so attractive you wouldn’t need tax incentives.”
Illinois politicians have become their own worst enemy in terms of selling such policy to taxpayers, Breen said.
“For legislators like me, who see reducing taxes on citizens as one of their primary goals, I have credibility and that’s why I take the hard, skeptical look that I do,” he said. “I know many fiscally responsible states that have functioning tax incentive programs; but in Illinois, it’s tough to trust politicians when it comes to things like this.”
The still-brewing scandal at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios won’t help ease the situation.
The U.S. Attorney’s office recently filed an indictment against longtime Chicago Teamsters boss John T. Coli Sr. on charges he extorted at least $325,000 from Cinespace 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’ relationship goes back at least several years; and it was Coli who introduced Pissios to several of the Democratic lawmakers who approved the $31 million in grants and tax breaks he used to build Cinespace.
Breen said he simply wants to see lawmakers in Springfield doing more to help the people they were sent there to work for.
“My top focus is getting property taxes under control; and close after that, it’s holding down income tax rates,” he said. “Those are two places where we are imposing the worse tax burden in the country on our middle class. If you can hold the line and reduce property and income taxes, that naturally helps you get spending in line.”
The 48th District includes all or parts of Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Lisle, Lombard, Oak Brook and Villa Park.