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Protesters Slam Tax Increment Financing Program

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Take Back Chicago Protest

Protesters converge for Take Back Chicago, a protest inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York City. (Credit: Lisa Fielding/WBBM Newsradio/CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS)As Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveils his first budget, corporate protesters are taking their message to City Hall.

The Take Back Chicago protesters complain that many companies received tax increment financing from the city, but were already profitable and did not need the help.

The group calls the TIF program a generator of “slush funds,” and is seeking to “highlight the city’s misuse of TIF funds as corporate handouts.”

They want Mayor Emanuel to open the TIF books to public scrutiny and declare a 50 percent TIF surplus.

In that respect, the mayor appears to be ahead of the protesters. While aldermen were asked not to comment on specifics of the budget, CBS 2 learned Tuesday that it will indeed include declaring a $60 million surplus in tax increment financing funds.

In a TIF district, property tax dollars for schools, parks, and other taxing districts are frozen for at least 23 years, so that all property tax increases afterward to go into a fund to improve struggling neighborhoods.

The TIF program has been under heavy criticism for several years.

Notably, critics such as Chicago Reader columnist Ben Joravsky say, in line with the protesters, that TIFs amount to a slush fund. Joravsky has been writing articles criticizing the TIF program for several years.

The Take Back Chicago protests have been in progress throughout the week. On Monday, thousands participated in simultaneous marches downtown in a protest organized by the Chicago Teachers Union, labor groups and other organizations. The protesters were demanding a solution to unemployment and the housing crisis, and calling for better education for children.

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