. . . In the first comprehensive analysis of 783 EDGE agreements, the Chicago Tribune found that two of every three businesses that completed the incentive program failed to maintain the number of employees they agreed to retain or hire.
State officials can't say how many jobs have been created through the job program; nor can they say how many jobs EDGE companies have eliminated. The Tribune, however, found that 79 current or former EDGE recipients have reported eliminating 23,369 jobs through layoffs and closures since entering the program.
Officials have long pitched tax breaks as a competitive tool that bolsters the state's fragile economy, and the program has seen explosive growth as Illinois battles with other states to attract and retain businesses. Leaders of the EDGE program say it has been a lifeline for dozens of companies, helping to create new jobs and improve workplaces.
But the Tribune's analysis suggests that tax credits often do little to help companies expand or create sustainable jobs. A pattern of deals emerges in which businesses lobbied for maximum rewards and minimum requirements — and the state said yes.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who took office this year as a frequent critic of EDGE, has ordered the program to focus on creating jobs. But the Rauner administration expressed surprise at the Tribune's findings of widespread job losses and mounting costs.
Jim Schultz, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which oversees EDGE, characterized dozens of the deals as "very distasteful."
Schultz said the Tribune's analysis also underscores how state law and policies have served to obscure public disclosure and accountability . . .Does this surprise anyone? WTHR's Bob Segall has similarly investigated economic development incentives awarded by Indiana and turned up similar problems, including a lack of transparency in allowing the public to measure the performance of these incentives, even after the legislature passed a new law authored by Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel) requiring greater transparency.