- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Legislation privatizing Illinois’ economic development agency and making the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum a stand-alone agency is being considered in Springfield.

The proposal filed by Democratic House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie on Monday merges two ideas backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan and GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner. Leaders are beginning to negotiate the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July.

Madigan has advocated for the Lincoln Library to be a stand-alone agency instead of under the Historic Preservation Agency, which would be eliminated under the proposal. Rauner, meanwhile, proposed during his successful campaign against former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn that the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity be turned into a public-private partnership.

Rauner’s deputy chief of staff Mike Schrimpf tells Crain’s Chicago Business (https://bit.ly/1DK0Rs5 ) the bill would make economic development more “efficient and effective.”

Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown told the paper that the speaker agreed to put both the DCEO and Lincoln Library clauses in the same bill. Brown said Madigan is considering the ramifications of the privatization element.

In Chicago, the privately run World Business Chicago recruits companies to the city and plays a behind-the-scenes role consulting on development issues. But the organization has fielded criticism for being too secretive.

Fred Giertz, an economist at the University of Illinois, said privatizing parts of DCEO could offer the governor more flexibility in negotiating deals with companies. But the agency would still need to give those deals a close look before signing off on them.

“They’d have to establish pretty clear guidelines and not just a let’s-make-a-deal sort of thing,” he said.

But knowing whether that was happening effectively wouldn’t be easy, he said. It’s tough now to know if DCEO’s deals are effective, given that incentives aren’t likely to be the deciding factor for any firm considering a move or major expansion.


The legislation is HB574.



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