Downtown Joliet, Nelda Deininger.

Editorial: Government handouts hit new low in Joliet

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SHARE Editorial: Government handouts hit new low in Joliet

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We’ve reached a new low in the government handout shell game.

No longer is it just corporations looking for a taxpayer subsidy. Now one local government, Joliet, is forking over $12.3 million to another local government, Will County, to build a new county courthouse in downtown Joliet.

It’s a little pathetic when Chicago throws tax breaks at big companies to convince them to stay put, but this latest deal — one local government throwing tax dollars at another local government to convince it to stay put — is plain stupid.

Will County should have decided where to build its new courthouse, replacing an existing one in Joliet, based solely on what’s best for the people who will be using that courthouse for years to come. That $12.3 million will be spent faster than a county commissioner can burp.

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The back story: Will County needs a new courthouse, but the Will County Board is loathe to raise taxes to raise the necessary $150 to $200 million. So the county board leaned on Joliet, which is desperately trying to revive its downtown and sees a new courthouse as essential to that effort.

In the deal announced Friday, Joliet will chip in $10 million over 20 years toward the courthouse and also will waive $2.3 million in building permit fees. That’s down from the $50 million Will County initially sought. Nice negotiating, Joliet.

We get that Joliet needs the boost and maybe, just maybe, this $12 million “investment” will help revive its downtown. We also get that Will County does not want to raise taxes. But strong-arming the people of Joliet, who now will pay for this courthouse twice — through both city taxes and county taxes — is pathetic.

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