Caulkins calls for more accountability, oversight in wake of tax break scandal
Dan Caulkins believes Illinois lawmakers need to figure out what industry they want the state to be known for.
“Either we’re going to be in the TV and film business, or we’re not,” Caulkins told the Chambana Sun. “It can’t be just halfway or middle of the road, especially when we’re giving out these huge tax breaks to attract new business. To be in the business would mean we would have to be getting back more in value than what we (are) putting in.”
The Chicago Sun-Times recently reported the state has given at least $420 million in tax breaks and incentives to television and film companies over the last decade to carve out a larger market share for Illinois.
Approximately 1,817 television and film production companies have received the benefits, but what they did to qualify for them remains a mystery. City officials have not inspected the books of the companies granted the discounts, the Sun-Times states.
“That’s where the lack of scrutiny and accountability kick in,” said Caulkins, running against Democrat Jennifer McMillin in the 101st House District. “If you were a bank loaning someone money to build a facility, the bank would want to see what they want to see from every quarter to make the investment. The state of Illinois should have a way to verify that we are bringing back more than it’s costing us to make these investments.”
As a small business owner, Caulkins said he understands the concept of sometimes having to spend in order to make money but there has to be checks and balances, he said.
“Once I’m in Springfield, I will absolutely insist that there is a mechanism in place to account for what we’re spending and what we’re getting back in return,” Caulkins said.
Oversight and accountability could help cut down on the level of corruption like that alleged to have happened at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, he said.
Federal prosecutors recently filed extortion charges against longtime Chicago Teamsters boss John T. Coli, alleging that he shook down Cinespace co-founder Alex Pissios for $325,000 by threatening to stage work stoppages at the West Side studio where such productions as “Chicago Fire” and “Empire” are filmed, the Deadline Hollywood website states.
“That’s so Chicago and exactly why people no longer use facilities like McCormick Place anymore,” Caulkins said. “It was absolutely criminal there how the unions had a racket in place to hire workers in these real cushy jobs.”
Coli and Pissios’ relationship is reported to span several years, with Coli at one point introducing Pissios to several of the Democratic lawmakers who approved the $31 million in grants and tax breaks he used to build Cinespace.
The 101st House District spans parts of Champaign, DeWitt, Macon, McLean and Piatt counties.