UPDATE: McLean Co. Farm Bureau says ag. ‘doesn’t get the benefits’ of CIRA tax change

Central Illinois Regional Airport
Central Illinois Regional Airport(25News Now)
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 9:55 PM CDT|Updated: May. 23, 2023 at 2:33 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (25News Now) - As the proposal to expand the Central Illinois Regional Airport tax base awaits a final vote in the state Senate, the local farm bureau is still expressing opposition to the bill.

“We do believe the airport is an asset, to the Bloomington-Normal community,” Assistant Manager of the bureau Anna Zeigler said, “but most of the benefits are realized by the hotels, the restaurants... Agriculture doesn’t really see that benefit.”

They also continue to take issue with the fact that the taxing change is being decided in the state legislature, where many of the lawmakers voting on it do not live in McLean County. During floor debate in the Illinois House Wednesday, Rep. Dan Caulkins (R - Decatur) asked sponsor Rep. Jay Hoffman of Belleville why this wasn’t being put to voters.

“In the past when we’ve done these types of things the airports have flourished, they’ve become stronger and they’ve become more stable,” Hoffman said. “I believe this is good for the stability and economic growth of the area.”

Zeigler said Rep. Sharon Chung (D - Bloomington) did work to get more voices from rural communities as members of the Central Illinois Airport Authority. Those positions will be appointed by the County Board Chair. Hoffman said 12 board members approve of the bill.

Rural McLean County mayors see Gov. JB Pritzker as perhaps the last hope to prevent the creation of a new taxing district to help fund the Central Illinois Regional Airport in the Twin Cities.

The Democratic-controlled Illinois House on Wednesday voted 73 to 40 favoring Senate Bill 684 which would expand the airport’s tax base to communities outside Bloomington-Normal.

The bill, co-sponsored by State Sen. David Koehler (D-Peoria), now moves to the Senate, which is also under Democratic control.

“I’m not giving up,” said Lexington Mayor Spencer Johansen, who leads the McLean County Mayors Association.

Johansen told 25News he wants to meet with Pritzker, who is also a Democrat.

“I am going to make every attempt to set up a meeting and try to convince him not to sign it,” said Johansen.

If signed into law, the bill would lower property taxes for Bloomington-Normal landowners and create a new property tax for McLean County landowners outside of the Twin Cities.

On May 1, Sen. Koehler told 25News it’s only fair the entire county shares the funding burden.

“The goal is to spread the support to the entire county of McLean, as we did for the airport in Peoria and Peoria County in 2007,” said Koehler.

State Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) sent out a news release after Wednesday’s House vote.

“This legislation circumvents the law by not allowing the taxpayers an opportunity to consider the creation of this new taxing body, a decision that should be made by the voters in McLean County, not the Illinois legislature,” said Caulkins.

Other areas Republican Reps. Dennis Tipsword, Bill Hauter, and Jason Bunting also voted no.

State Rep. Sharon Chung (D-Bloomington) voted for the measure.