STAR bonds bill fails to get support in State Government Committee; moves to Exec Committee

Ann Knef May 27, 2010, 7:00am


SPRINGFIELD - Sales tax and revenue (STAR) bonds legislation failed to get enough support to move out of a state senate committee today, according to State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon).

McCarter said the bill that would support development of an entertainment and shopping development in Marion has moved on to the state senate's Executive Committee.

"They didn't call it because there weren't enough votes to get it out of State Government (Committee)," McCarter said Thursday.

The controversial STAR bonds legislation is tagged on as an amendment to an unrelated mental health bill.

Project developers apparently abandoned their plan for a giant retail center in Glen Carbon in favor of a smaller project in Marion.

State Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton) and State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) are now sponsoring the bill, after legislators from the Metro-East dropped support for the prospective University Town Center (UTC).

Developers Bruce Holland, John Costello, son of Congressman Jerry Costello, and others shifted their sights after spending a year seeking legislation to provide state subsidies for UTC, at Interstate 270 and Illinois Route 157.

Bradley introduced an amendment for developers on May 5.

The House and the Senate approved a subsidy bill last year, but Gov. Pat Quinn blocked it with an amendatory veto that would have cut state support in half.

Rather than accept half, developers started over this year but made no progress.

Opposition spread among regional mayors who feared UTC would pull retail activity out of their communities.

The bill's original sponsor, Sen. James Clayborne (D-Belleville), could not muster the votes to advance it.

Rep. Thomas Holbrook (D-Belleville), lead sponsor in the House, said in March that he wouldn't proceed with it unless a majority of his constituents supported it.

Bradley's May 5 amendment would reduce the state's commitment by shrinking the project and limiting state support to half the cost instead of 100 percent.

It would provide free buildings to two big stores and a hotel with at least 150 rooms.

Among other things, the project, as amended, would have to be near an "entertainment user" or a baseball stadium.

East Alton asbestos lawyer John Simmons owns a baseball stadium at Marion, built with state subsidies.

To offset local losses of sales taxes, the bill would direct some revenues to a trust fund for schools in Williamson and Franklin Counties.

Jackson and Jefferson counties, with big retail centers near enough to Marion to suffer similar losses, would receive nothing.

Mount Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley said Wednesday that Bradley turned down her request to provide STAR bond authority for Mount Vernon.

"Representative Bradley indicated that he would not support a new bill with the belief that the current bill provides adequate benefit to Mount Vernon," she said in a statement.

In an earlier statement, Chesley echoed the concerns that halted the Glen Carbon project.

"We have a new interchange and are in the process of building infrastructure on approximately 600 acres around the interchange to attract businesses to the area," she wrote on May 6.

"What are our chances of attracting these businesses when only 40 miles down the interstate lies Marion with this proposed added development tool?

"While I am all for regional development, I cannot support projects utilizing state sponsored programs that give one community an advantage over others."

Steve Korris contributed to this report.

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State Senator Kyle McCarter
310 W Gallatin St
Vandalia, IL 62471-2821

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