State Sen. Koehler: airport tax bill is about ‘fairness’

MCLEAN COUNTY (25News Now) – A proposed bill would create a new tax for people in rural McLean County, helping fund the Central Illinois Regional Airport.

The bill would also cut taxes for people in Bloomington-Normal.

Legislation co-sponsored by State Sen. David Koehler (D – Peoria) says “This issue is about fairness. Right now the only tax support for the Central Illinois Regional Airport is from residents of Bloomington and Normal. 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.”

Last year, about 180,000 passengers flew through CIRA in Bloomington. However, the only taxes supporting it, were the people who live in Bloomington and Normal.

Now, a proposed bill is looking to change that.

“The economic benefits do not stop at the corporate boundaries of Bloomington and Normal, they extend certainly throughout the county and into the region,” said Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority Executive Director Carl Olson.

The bill would reduce the tax rate for people in Bloomington-Normal by about 33%. It would bring their current 14 cents per $100 of assessed value to 9.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.

For people outside the Twin Cities, it would be about $55 more a year for the owner of a house valued at $175,000.

The Peoria Metropolitan Airport Authority did this more than a decade ago.

“We’re following the same process that the State of Illinois and other counties have followed on this same issue with exactly the same language previously. We’re following the precedent and the practice that has been established,” said Olson.

Olson says this is not about generating more revenue, rather sharing the cost.

“This is also about having competitive rates, competitive fees to help us retain and grow air service, attract retain and grow business partners here at the airport,” said Olson.

However, rural communites in McLean County are not happy about the proposal. 12 of them have already passed resolutions opposing the proposal.

“Nobody approached us to sit down and discuss it with us. It just came up out of the blue,” said Lexington Mayor Spencer Johansen.

Mayor Johansen says he is angry and disappointed. He believes there should have been a referendum to ask people about the tax.

“The voters in McLean County had no say so about this, they still don’t, and they’re going to be paying a new tax without even putting it on a ballot or even discussing it,” said Johansen.

The legislative proposal already passed the Senate about out of a House committee. It’s now headed to the full house for a vote in the next few weeks.

Copyright 2023 WEEK. All rights reserved.

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May 1, 2023 at 11:15PM

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