Illinois won't release details of 'Chicago Fire' tax credits

AP News
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Posted: Jul 26, 2016 12:47 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois officials say they won't detail expenditures the TV show "Chicago Fire" made to qualify for nearly $16 million in tax breaks last year.

The move is a departure from last year, when the state publicly released the names and amounts show producers spent on actors, extras, crew and businesses that worked on the series' pilot episode, the Chicago Sun-Times (http://bit.ly/2adQrHS ) reported.

State officials say show owner NBCUniversal Media argued that Illinois was disclosing proprietary information that would yield competitive harm. The state agreed that the information was exempt from release under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's staff is reviewing the newspaper's appeal of the state's decision.

The state offers 30 percent tax credits to television and film producers who spend at least $100,000 on goods and services in the state. Producers can also get 30 percent credits on wages of up to $100,000 for each worker who has an Illinois state ID or driver's license before filming begins.

The program created thousands of jobs and generated $330 million in spending across Illinois in 2015, up 18 percent over the previous year, according to the state film office.

Illinois has awarded "Chicago Fire" $17.4 million in credits for the 24 episodes in the show's first season, but there weren't any credits issued for the series' following three seasons. No credits have been issued for its sister shows, "Chicago Med" and "Chicago P.D."

Without seeing the records, it's not possible for the public to know, for example, whether politically connected people are benefiting from the TV show's taxpayer-supported spending. For instance, spending on the pilot episode of "Chicago Fire" included nearly $58,000 paid to William T. Hogan III, the son of the former leader of the local Teamsters union, to work as a "driver captain/trans coord."

Documents show that "Chicago Fire" paid Chicago actors, including Joe Minoso and Amy Morton, as well as Chicago firefighters who served as consultants and extras, for its pilot.

Callahan said Illinois previously released the "Chicago Fire" pilot information because NBCUniversal didn't include a statement requesting confidentiality protection when it applied for its first tax credit, which totaled $1.6 million and was awarded in 2013.

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Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://chicago.suntimes.com/