Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn last week signed legislation extending the special taxing districts known as enterprise zones for 25 years.

The action was prompted by the impending expiration of some of the state's first zones, established nearly 30 years ago. The zones, which can be established by local governments or the state, permit businesses to benefit from tax credits and various tax abatements and exemptions to promote job and economic development.

The state contends the program has generated thousands of jobs and generated investment of $2.5 billion in 2011, down from $4.6 billion in 2008. Critics contend more oversight is needed to judge the program's success.

Currently 43 states have created enterprise zone programs and there are well over 3,000 enterprise zones in the U.S. including 96 in Illinois, according to a report from the Civic Federation of Chicago.

The most recent state report on the cost of lost taxes and credits and deductions was $104 million in 2010, up from $33 million five years earlier, according to the federation.

"We want our businesses to invest, grow and put more Illinois residents to work," Quinn said in a statement. "This new law provides employers with the long-term certainty they need to grow, and strengthens oversight standards to ensure accountability from businesses that participate in the program."

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