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SPRINGFIELD - The Democratic candidate for state comptroller said he wants to shine more light on an economic development tool he contends may be diverting tax dollars from more important programs.

State Rep. David Miller, who is challenging Republican Judy Baar Topinka, said the public needs more information about tax increment financing or TIF districts to assess whether they are benefiting local communities.

"With more transparency, we can stop TIFs from being unfairly abused to benefit well-connected developers," Miller said. "We can determine if TIF money is better spent elsewhere."

TIF districts originally were designed to help cities improve blighted areas by reinvesting property tax dollars generated by any new development in infrastructure within the district.

Miller said in some instances, those diverted tax dollars might be better spent on improving schools and fighting crime.

"Many municipalities have severe budget constraints - revenue is short and vital services are being cut," Miller said.

Under his plan, the state comptroller would launch an online database to help the public understand how each of the 1,000 TIF districts are operating in the state.

"The first step toward fiscal responsibility is transparency," Miller said. "In these belt-tightening times, everything needs to be on the table."

Topinka also has proposed an online database aimed at giving Illinoisans more information about state government.

"Judy is committed to increasing government transparency and accountability as comptroller and believes all TIF districts must be examined to better expose waste and fraud," said spokesman Brad Hahn.

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