SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers Thursday night approved, 81-35, a multibillion-dollar economic development measure that includes incentives for a urea fertilizer plant proposed to be built on the west side of Tuscola.
House opponents called the measure, which includes about a dozen separate components, "a Christmas tree bill," but supporters said it would mean jobs and economic growth throughout the state.
Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, criticized the way the bill was presented and said the state economy could be improved by cutting regulation and committing to reducing the 67 percent income tax increase enacted three years ago.
"The thing that binds this thing together is economic development for the entire state," said Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, the sponsor of the bill.
Rep. Sue Scherer noted Decatur's 14 percent unemployment rate and said the economic development "is desperately needed."
State incentives for the proposed $1.4 billion fertilizer plant in Tuscola are included in legislation that also contains provisions for land acquistion for a Peotone airport, for construction of a basketball arena and a hotel at McCormick Place in Chicago, for the remodeling of a convention center in Rosemont and for many other projects.
The incentives for the Tuscola plant earlier had been included in separate legislation sponsored by Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign.
That measure designated the plant proposed by Cronus Chemicals LLC as a high-impact business and made it eligible for financial incentives, including a waiver of sales taxes on materials purchased to build the plant. That tax break was worth an estimated $14.5 million, according to state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.
Brown said before Thursday night's vote that he would reluctantly support the omnibus bill (SB 20).
"It's frustrating that there are last-minute amendments like this," he said. "The simple bill that I introduced with good intentions is being weighed down with a lot of pet projects, it seems herre."
The new bill, filed around noon Thursday, is 373 pages long and includes at least 15 separate components, Brown said.
"I've got to support it," Brown said. "I've got to get my portion of the bill passed. It's just an unfortunate consequence of not being of the party in charge."
Brown said he had several concerns about the omnibus bill, ranging from the quick-take authorization provisions for the Peotone airport project to the "sheer magnitude" of the measure.