Incentives measure for convention space passes House

From Illinois News Network

Money from the Tourism Promotion Fund can go to municipalities or their convention center authorities for various projects–if it brings in outside business–with a measure that passed the House Saturday.

Opponents said it subsidizes the public sector at the disadvantage of the private sector.

During House Debate Democrat Kenneth Dunkin said he worries the measure would take dollars meant to promote tourism in the whole state and give it to local governments. Democratic Sponsor Fred Crespo tried to ease those concerns.

“Potential loss of local distributive funds, property tax freezes, so they’re looking for other ways, to hey, assistance to generate other revenues. This is one of the ideas that we came up with. The key for me was as i talked with them was it had to be revenue neutral. We can’t tap into existing funds. So the way we drafted this was they have to demonstrate new revenue to the state.”

Crespo says the measure levels the playing field and encourages outside businesses coming to the state. Republican Steven Andersson says that’s not what’ the bill would do.

“It allows public venues to offer incentives and not worry about paying for them. Private venues, in order to attract this same business, will have to do the same thing, but they have to factor in the expenses of doing so into their overall profit and loss. Not so with public venues who can now just be reimbursed.”

Crespo, says there are at least nine different institutions, some he worked directly with in crafting the legislation, that would benefit from the program. But Republican David Harris said the measure is subject to appropriation and nothing has been appropriated. Harris says it’s a poor piece of legislation.

Democrat Jack Franks says every deal has to stand on its own in the private sector. Franks stood in strict opposition.

“Understand what we are asking for is private industry to subsidize their public–their public competitors. I don’t see how that benefits anyone.”

However Republicans Joe Sosnowski and Margo McDermed stood in support, saying right now the business climate is already bad and this would help areas that are struggling.

The measure now heads back to the Senate for concurrence. That’s expected Sunday, the final day for simple majorities to pass legislation.

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