Lawmakers in Springfield are once again proposing a bad deal for Illinois taxpayers.
The proposed One Central Project in Chicago would give private developers an unprecedented $6.5 billion, plus 34 acres of land, in exchange for a public infrastructure project. Further, no public agency identified this as a major need until after developers concocted the plan.
This deal would not have been possible if not for special language inserted at the last minute into a 2019 Illinois spending bill. The Public-Private Partnership for Civic and Transit Infrastructure Project Act authorized more than $6.5 billion in state spending subject to an agreement between the newly created government entity and privately owned Landmark Development. That provision received little attention or debate.
Government funding might be in order if this project were a priority for Chicago or the region, but that’s not the case with One Central. When developers first proposed it, no public agency (including the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, the City of Chicago, Cook County, or the Regional Transportation Authority) had identified the project area as being a specific need.
Hundreds of other transportation projects — many of which have not been completed — were prioritized over this mega project.
There’s simply no justification to risk more than $6 billion in taxpayer funds for an initiative that isn’t a public priority. Instead, the city and state should facilitate economic development in an equitable and transparent way, without favoring specific interest groups.
When public property is involved, taxpayers should receive an appropriate return.
Urge your lawmakers to repeal the Public-Private Partnership for Civic and Transit Infrastructure Project Act and protect Illinois taxpayers!