Republican House candidate Jay Kinzler fears Illinois’ attempt to attract more television and film production to the state could be a case of a good plot gone bad.
“You want to encourage business to come to the state because it means more jobs for the people of Illinois,” Kinzler told the DuPage Policy Journal. “I think this started out with the best of intentions, but now maybe things have gone too far. You don’t want things to get to the point where we’re just giving away state benefits without looking at what the actual return on them might be.”
At a time when the state remains mired in a deep financial hole and saddled with billions in unpaid debt, the Chicago Sun-Times recently reported state lawmakers have shelled out as much as $420 million in tax breaks to TV and film production companies over the last decade.
A total of 1,817 productions have received such breaks, though what they did to earn them remains a mystery, the Sun-Times stated. State officials have yet to examine the books of the companies given the discounts, which come with the stipulation that they hire Illinois residents and patronize local businesses.
“That’s where our state needs to do its deep dive analysis,” said Kinzler, running against Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) in the 46th House District. “One of the problems in Illinois is we’ve long had poor stewardship of taxpayer money, especially if we think something looks good on the surface.”
Another unknown is how many of the city’s productions were staged at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, where studio president Alexander S. Pissios recently worked with federal investigators to net an extortion indictment against Chicago Teamsters boss John T. Coli Sr.
Coli is accused of pocketing at least $325,000 by threatening work stoppages at the West Side facility where productions like “Chicago Fire” and “Empire” are filmed, the Deadline Hollywood website stated. Coli allegedly introduced Pissios to several of the Democratic lawmakers who later approved the $31 million in grants used to build Cinespace.
Kinzler reasons such corruption is always a possibility when so much money is in play and state leadership isn’t what it should be.
“I worry a lot about the current leadership of (House Speaker) Mike Madigan and my opponent,” he said. “I think they sometimes use these kinds of tax breaks solely for the benefit of their friends and supporters.”
Once he arrives in Springfield, Kinzler said he plans on treating taxpayer’s money the same as he would his own in running a business. He added he thinks more of the state’s tax dollars should be spent on providing core services for residents.
“I am a firm believer that leadership should be focusing on providing the services residents need and deserve,” he said. “I don’t think our leaders should just be giving away our resources. I want to see the breaks going to taxpayers. They are the ones carrying this state on their backs.”
The 46th House District includes all or parts of Addison, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Glen Ellyn, Glendale Heights, Hanover Park, Lombard and Villa Park.