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Illinois’ Amazon Prime Time: Gov Candidates Weigh In On Possible HQ2 Deal

The clock is ticking for Illinois and Chicago to put together a package of taxpayer-funded incentives to attract what could be one of the shiniest corporate prizes in American history: Amazon’s second headquarters.

The deadline to submit proposals to the company is Oct. 19, and Chicago will be up against more than 100 other cities reportedly vying for the massive project, known as HQ2.

With Amazon’s announcement expected sometime in 2018, just as Illinois’ gubernatorial race ramps up, WBEZ reached out to the field of gubernatorial contenders to see what they think should — and should not — go into a state deal that could impact state finances for years to come.

The Democrats in the race are urging Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to think hard before potentially serving up several billions of dollars in subsidies with few strings attached, in exchange for the intoxicating allure of 50,000 high-paying jobs.

But that’s where the agreement stops.

Some of the declared candidates regard an offering to Amazon as a once-in-a-generation obligation that could represent a shot in the arm for a financially derelict state with billions of dollars in unpaid bills and pension obligations.

But others think an incentive package is risky. They want the company to locate in economically depressed parts of the city, and one suggested any agreement should also include money for public schools. Some also argue the deal should not take decades to begin paying for itself and that the state should be allowed to revoke subsides if Amazon’s job-creation promises go unmet.

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Dave McKinney covers state politics for WBEZ. Follow him at  @davemckinney

Editor’s note: Chicago Public Media receives philanthropic support from The Pritzker Foundation. J.B. Pritzker, who is campaigning for governor in the Democratic Primary, is not involved with the foundation and does not contribute to it.

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