Senate OKs incentives for fertilizer plant near Tuscola

Senate OKs incentives for fertilizer plant near Tuscola

SPRINGFIELD — Legislation providing state incentives for a proposed $1.2 billion fertilizer plant in Douglas County cleared the Illinois Senate on Tuesday.

The measure (SB 1147), sponsored by Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, was approved, 51-0. Eight senators, a mixture mostly of Chicago Democrats and suburban Republicans, did not vote.

The legislation now moves to the House for its consideration. A similar bill (HB 2496) sponsored by Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign, is stuck in the House Rules Committee.

The bill designates the plant proposed by Cronus Chemicals LLC as a high-impact business and makes it eligible for financial incentives, including a waiver of sales taxes on materials purchased to build the plant. That tax break is worth an estimated $14.5 million, according to Rose.

There was little debate on the bill, Rose said. Only one senator asked, he said, if there was any connection between the proposed plant in Tuscola and the facility in West, Texas, that blew up last week, killing 14 people.

"We worked the bill pretty hard, and took care of all the questions in advance," Rose said. "It's not ammonia nitrate. This is urea, which is nonflammable. Ammonia nitrate is unbelievably explosive. But urea is a pretty stable compound."

Rose said no senators questioned the cost of the state incentives to attract Cronus. The company also is being courted by the state of Iowa.

"Right now (at the site) you've got a bean field. You get local property taxes but the state's not making anything off of that," he said. "We're going to make far more in state tax revenue once this thing is started, moving the broader economy, than you're ever going to deal with. Within the first year alone you're money ahead."

He said projections are that income tax payments from the 2,000 construction jobs at the plant would amount to $15 million in the first year.

"Then you've got all the permanent income taxes in perpetuity," Rose said. "Plus, you've got sales taxes for what they spend locally."

The plant, which would provide 200 permanent jobs, would have a $300 million annual economic impact within a six-county area, Rose said.

He said Gov. Pat Quinn had personally called senior executives at Cronus to urge them to locate the plant in Illinois.

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