Rockford Register-Star – May 4, 2015 | Original article

By Brian Leaf

ROCKFORD — It's budget-approval month in Springfield. And when a spending plan is adopted, it could have a big impact on the historic downtowns of Rockford and four other cities, where a state incentive has kindled redevelopment investment and lots of interest in old, significant buildings.

That's the message proponents of Senate Bill 1642, which would extend the state River Edge Historic Tax Credit until 2022, sent south Monday during a Rockford hearing on legislation proposed by Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford. The bill is in the Senate's Revenue Subcommittee with other tax credit measures. The hearing was a way to elevate conversation about the importance of tax credits to River Edge cities: Rockford, Aurora, Elgin, Peoria and East St. Louis.

"We just need to get it discussed when major decisions are taking place," Stadelman said on why he hastily scheduled the Commerce and Economic Development Committee hearing two days earlier.

More than 30 states have historic tax credit programs. Illinois' 25 percent tax credit, which has resulted in $120 million in investment in Rockford's central city, doesn't expire until Dec. 31, 2016. But the date looms large for developers, who said that the 20 months left make it too risky to start a tax credit project because work may not finish — and building occupancy may not occur — by the New Year's Eve 2016 deadline.

Those who support renewing the tax credit program say the incentive has attracted interest from out-of-state developers, who will take their capital elsewhere if the program expires. Frantz Community Investors of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, already did. Last month, it rescinded a letter of intent to redevelop three downtown Rockford buildings. Mitch Hallgren, director of construction for Frantz, said his company will focus attention on historic renovations in Wisconsin and Iowa.

Representatives of Wisconsin-based Gorman & Company are feeling the tight deadline. The company plans to take ownership this month of the downtown riverfront Amerock/Ziock building and turn it into a $67 million hotel-conference complex. Renovation work begins this summer.

"A project this size, you don't want to be right on the periphery," said Andre Blakely, Illinois market president at Gorman.

Stadelman and Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, were the only two of 14 committee members at the hearing. Holmes urged people to write Gov. Bruce Rauner and ask him to support the program extension, which backers say turns vacant properties in distressed neighborhoods into tax-paying, job-producing businesses that give the state a $10 return on every $1 in tax credit it provides.

Tax credits are an important financial tool for developers. Property values have plunged 30 percent in Rockford since 2009, Mayor Larry Morrissey said. Banks won't lend money for redevelopment projects for that reason, but because of state tax credits, developers can make a project work.

"Private developers wouldn't be investing in cities without tax credits," he said.

Read more at RRStar.com.

Category: Latest

Sen. Holmes in RockfordElgin Courier-News - May 5, 2015 | Original article

By Mike Dahaney

Losing a tax credit program that funds projects in six Illinois river towns, including Aurora and Elgin, would hinder further redevelopment in those cities, local officials told state lawmakers Monday.

The message delivered during a lunchtime hearing of the State Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee in Rockford specifically related to the Hobbs Building and vacant St. Charles Hospital in Aurora and Elgin's Tower Building.

"This is an extremely important topic for the Aurora area," said Democrat State Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora, who chairs the committee. "It's something we've utilized and need to utilize."

The session was hosted by Democrat State Sen. Steve Stadelman of Rockford and run by Holmes with Democrat State Rep. Litesa Wallace of Rockford also sitting in on the proceedings.

"It's a matter of timing and momentum," Elgin Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal told the lawmakers.

Read more ...

Category: Latest

Reboot Illinois - April 27, 2015 | Original story

by Madeleine Doubek

Something is wrong in Illinois when you have a fiscal crisis you go a long way toward solving by “sweeping” $1.3 billion out of nearly 800 different state funds, seemingly in the time it takes to click your heels together and say, “Sweep away.”

That’s just about what happened at the end of March, minus the heel clicking. Then, after lawmakers flipped out when they thought they’d solved their immediate crisis only to find out key programs for the poor, sick and disabled were enduring $26 million in cuts, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget office suggested another sweep might ease the pain.

I don’t know about you, but on those rare days when I sweep at my house, I’m lucky to find a penny, not millions or billions. I knew we had a bunch of funds from specialty license plates and for charitable causes, but I’d never paid much attention, so I did some asking.

Illinois has nearly 800 different funds. They include the general revenue fund, the big one we all tend to focus on this time of year. They also include some others like a road fund and a motor fuel fund. And then there are, quite literally, hundreds of others like: Illinois State Police Memorial Park, Illinois Veterans Rehabilitation, Illinois Police K-9 Memorial, State Boating Act, State Parks, Wildlife & Fish, Salmon, Military Affairs Trust, Lobbyist Registration Administration and Agriculture Premium.

Then there’s the Federal Mass Transit Trust, Share the Road, National Flood Insurance Program, Land Reclamation, Federal Energy, Cycle Rider Safety Training and Farmers Market Tech Improvement.

I randomly just picked a few spots from a column of 792 sent to me by Comptroller Leslie Munger’s office. Omitting the general revenue fund, the biggie that funds state operations each year, all these funds late last week had $9.67 billion in them.

That’s a whole lot of our money we never hear much about.  The good news? Last week, the Illinois Senate approved a bill, SB1404, that attempts to make sure these funds get audited every year. Another, SB 1405, seeks to see if some of these funds can be consolidated.

The bills probably aren’t perfect. I think it’s a bit rich that they create yet another special board to work on shrinking the number of funds over the next several years. And it sounds like the bills keep the audits exempt from FOIA disclosure. Isn’t the problem here that the funds are managed in the dark? Well, yes.

Still, state Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat who sponsored the bills, said it’s a start at making the funds “a little more manageable and … a little more transparent for everybody.”

Read more ...

Category: Latest

Sen. Holmes and Rep. Kifowit attend legislative breakfastAurora Beacon News - Feb. 24, 2015

By Linda Girardi

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner recently said that like a family, everyone must come together to address the reality of the state's financial crisis.

But the mayors and village presidents that represent some 750,000 residents in Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties aren't feeling the love.

"For years Springfield has pick-pocketed municipalities. Now the governor has advocated armed robbery," Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said Tuesday.

Representatives of the Metro West Council of Government municipal alliance Tuesday balked at the governor's proposal to slash in half the local governments' share of state income tax revenue.

Rauner made the announcement during his first budget address to the Illinois General Assembly last week, as part of a budget plan to "restore Illinois to fiscal health," he said.

The suburban leaders met at the annual Metro West Legislative Breakfast at the Gaslite Manor in Aurora to send a unified message back to Springfield that the governor's proposal is not acceptable.

The suburban mayors and village presidents in their response said they have made their fair share of sacrifices as municipalities and now it is time for the state of Illinois to do its fair share.

Nine state senators and representatives from the area attended the nearly three-hour session. Burns said the governor's policy-makers neglected to seek input from local municipalities.

State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, said while the governor is new in the political process the proposed cuts are "real life issues" and not a "training exercise."

She said regardless of what is proposed in the budget, it will take 60 votes in the House and 30 votes in the Senate to pass measures.

Many of the leaders present said that Rauner needs to understand the concerns raised at the Aurora meeting.

Read the full version of the original article.

Category: Latest

eNewsletter

eNewsletter Signup
  1. First Name(*)
    Invalid Input
  2. Last Name(*)
    Invalid Input
  3. Your Email(*)
    Please let us know your email address.