STAR bonds amendment to mental health bill stalls

Steve Korris Feb. 25, 2010, 11:00am



SPRINGFIELD – Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne of Belleville can't gather a majority behind state sponsorship of a tourist attraction and mall at Glen Carbon.

The Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee's agenda on Feb. 25 included his bill to pay for the proposed University Town Center, but members didn't bring it up.

The bill has languished for three straight Thursdays.

On Feb. 11, the Senate Revenue and Finance Committee referred it to a subcommittee.

On Feb. 18, the subcommittee ignored it.

Area mayors, who fear that the mall would draw retail sales out of their communities, traveled to the last two meetings but never got a chance to speak against it.

Under Clayborne's bill, most retail sales taxes from the project would go to project developers rather than to the state treasury.

The village of Glen Carbon would issue bonds for the project, and developers would repay the bonds with sales taxes.

The development group includes John Costello, son of U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello.

Last year, Clayborne sponsored a bill that would have diverted all the mall's retail sales taxes from the state to developers.

The House and the Senate passed it, but Illinois Department of Revenue Director Brian Hamer opposed it.

He warned that a mall would cannibalize retail sales rather than create new sales.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed an amendatory veto that would have split sales taxes with developers on a 50-50 basis.

Developers rejected the deal and rewrote the bill for the current session.

Under the new bill, developers would keep all sales taxes from an amusement venue and big "destination stores."

The state would collect sales taxes from smaller stores.

Rep. Tom Holbrook of Belleville sponsored the bill and attached it as an amendment to a Senate bill dealing with mental health.

The sponsor of the mental health bill, Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign) removed his name from the bill.

"I transferred the sponsorship to Senator Clayborne," Frerichs said on Feb. 25.

"I said 'take me off,' because I don't like it," he said.

Asked what he didn't like, Frerichs said, "Lots of things. That's why I gave it to James."

"The number one thing is the loss of revenue to the state," he said.

Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-Crystal Lake) and Reps. Robert Pritchard (R-Sycamore) and Naomi Jakobsson (D-Champaign) also removed their names from the mental health bill.

A Feb. 23 docket entry says, "Chief sponsor changed to Sen. James F. Clayborne Jr."

Five days earlier, Clayborne had attached his proposal as an amendment to a House bill dealing with closure of state facilities.

Clayborne's amendment and Holbrook's amendment are identical.

New action on the mall upset regional mayors and county board members who had received assurances on Jan. 22 that developers would not advance the bill for 60 days.

Mayors and county board members asked for time so they could study the mall's impact on other retailers in the region.

They await a report from a consultant they hired, John Brancaglione.

Revenue Director Hamer doesn't oppose the new plan, but he pleaded in a fiscal note that he lacked necessary information.

"We currently have only the most limited information on proposed development costs," he wrote.

"We have no information about the planned bond issues," he wrote.

The bill requires an investment of at least $300 million, on at least 600 acres.

Developers would build at the interchange of Interstate 270 and Illinois Route 157.

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