Metro East officials to oppose STAR bonds legislation

Amelia Flood Mar. 22, 2010, 9:45am

Pictured are Sen. Haine at podium; Rep. Hoffman at left; St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern at center.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman and state Sen. Bill Haine announced that they would join a number of local mayors and their communities in opposing the so-called "STAR" bond legislation that would get a 650 acre mall development off the ground in Glen Carbon.

Calling the project "too risky," Hoffman (D-Collinsville), Haine (D-Alton) and state Rep. Thomas Holbrook (D-Belleville) revoked their previous support of the measure Monday morning.

Holbrook, a co-sponsor of the legislation, acknowledged that the project would draw too much sales tax revenue away from other Metro East communities in a time when the state faces an over $10 billion shortfall in revenue.

STAR bonds -- sales tax and revenue bonds -- would channel retail sales taxes from the state to the developers of the University Town Center site at the crossroads of Interstates 270 and 255.

The developers include UTC Development, Bruce Holland of Holland Construction and John Costello, the son of U.S. Representative Jerry Costello.

A prior stand-alone STAR bonds bill died last year in Springfield. It was re-introduced this year as amendments to state House and Senate bills.

Hoffman and Haine cited three studies that have been conducted on the proposal as evidence that it would have a "sucking effect," that would damage sales revenue streams to local communities and Madison and St. Clair counties.

"It's really just shifting shoppers," Haine said Monday. "It creates winners but it also, ladies and gentlemen, creates losers. At this juncture of Illinois history, I don't want to create any losers."

According to the most recent study of the project conducted by St. Louis-based consulting firm Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets Urban Consulting, the center would draw $729 million away from the state of Illinois over the next two decades. Madison and St. Clair counties could stand to lose up to 30 percent of their taxable retail sales, for a combined loss of $1.2 million.

The PGAV study was commissioned by the Southwest Illinois Council of Mayors. The head of the organization, Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson, was among those in attendance at the Monday press conference.

The center's developers commissioned their own study. Conducted by Zimmer Real Estate Services of St. Louis, it predicted that 11,000 construction jobs and 6,400 full-time jobs would be created by the mall. The UTC study's complete results have not yet been released.

Hoffman acknowledged that his previous support of the measure might have been premature, he said.

"I believe we were wrong," he said. "I believe we made the wrong decision before we had all the facts."

Hoffman and Haine said it was unlikely that the STAR bonds issue would be taken up before the state legislature recesses May 7.
Standing with Hoffman, Haine, and Holbrook were the mayors of communities including Belleville, Collinsville, Columbia, Madison, Maryville, East St. Louis and other communities.

State Sen. James Clayborne, the other co-sponsor of the legislation, did not attend Monday's press conference at the Fairview Heights City Council Chambers.

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