Sears Subsidy Passes House – School District 300 Take + Roll Call on SB 397

A press release from School District 300:

Sears legislation passes House, headed to Senate

Sears Centre

SPRINGFIELD – Legislation to extend the Sears EDA for another 15 years and provide additional tax credits to Sears passed the Illinois House of Representatives this afternoon (Dec. 12) by a 2 to 1 margin.

The Illinois Senate is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow, which would bring to a close a 9-month struggle by the D300 community to secure a fair and reasonable compromise on the EDA extension.

Today’s official voting recording by House members (81 yes, 28 no, 7 present) on SB 397 can be found here: The amended legislation matches the agreement that D300 leaders reluctantly agreed to in late November.

Sears subsidy House roll call on Senate Bill 397. Click to enlarge.

During debate on the House floor today, several House members posed questions to the bill sponsors in order to set the official record straight and prevent future exploitation of ambiguities in the language. For example:

  • Bill sponsor John Bradley, who also chairs the House Revenue and Finance Committee was asked whether the EDA would end within one calendar year of Sears leaving the state at any point during the 15-year extension, which Bradley confirmed.
  • Rep. Mike Tryon asked how many jobs Sears would need to maintain in the EDA after the first five years of the extension in order for the EDA to stay in place. Bradley confirmed that if Sears maintained only a few hundred jobs in the EDA, that would essentially qualify as Sears having left the state.
  • Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr. asked for clarification on the terms “developer” and “successor entities” in the legislation, and Bradley clarified that both terms specifically refer to Sears Corporate Holdings.
  • Rep. Kent Gaffney asked whether any EDA money could be used for bond payments on the Sears Centre Arena (which is owned by the Village of Hoffman Estates, not by Sears), and Bradley confirmed that such bond payments would be illegal.
  • Gaffney also asked whether Sears will have an outside agency certify the cost of its capital projects in order for the public to know when the EDA should officially end (estimates are 8-12 years), and Bradley confirmed this outside certification would occur.

Rep. Tryon went on to criticize the bill for allowing the Village of Hoffman Estates to continue receiving $1.7 million more per year than the village’s normal taxation from the EDA. He also admonished the bill sponsors for their poor treatment of D300 leaders on the EDA issue.

But Superintendent Michael Bregy pointed out that the criticism he and others have endured was limited to a small handful of the more than 160 members of the House and Senate.

“At the end of the day, our very few critics have been far outnumbered by our legions of supporters – both at the local level and the state level,” Bregy recently said in a news release.

The collective effort by D300 staff and community members on the EDA legislation this year will result in a net gain of at least $50 million for the D300 school system over the next 15 years. (Now = $2.9M/year. Extension = $6.2M/year.)

“If the value of the EDA property goes up, that figure will be even higher.

“If Sears is repaid earlier than 15 years, as expected, the district will receive an additional $11 million a year in school property taxes that are rightfully due to us.

“And if Sears moves at any point, likewise the district will receive an additional $11 million a year.

* The new legislation still not does specifically name Sears, and it still does not require Sears to keep all of its current jobs at its corporate headquarters in D300 / Hoffman Estates. But both of these matters were clarified on the House floor today, and the legislation does provide financial penalties if Sears drops below a certain # of jobs in the first 5 years of the EDA extension.

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