More than 300 companies have benefited over the past six years from a tax credit designed to encourage economic development, bringing promises of 73,000 jobs for Illinois and $6 billion in private investment, the state commerce agency says.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka proposes building on that success by offering more tax credits. Gov. Rod Blagojevich says her plan is full of holes.

The governor’s aides say that with one broad tax credit already helping create jobs, what the state needs now are targeted tax breaks for specific industries or regions of the state.

Economic development experts, however, say tax credits and other economic incentives play only a limited role in bringing new jobs to a state. Companies are much more likely to base expansion decisions on such factors as a state’s location, overall tax burden and infrastructure.

“I think it’s fairly widely accepted that these incentives don’t matter until you narrow the search down when you’ve got it down to, say, Illinois versus Indiana,” said Ernie Goss, an economics professor at Creighton University.

Experts also warn that tax credits should be accompanied by safeguards that ensure the state is really getting new jobs for its money a safeguard Topinka’s plan lacks.

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