SPRINGFIELD — Hoping to avoid leaving crumbling buildings and weed-choked lots across the state, Illinois lawmakers are considering offering tax breaks to companies that take over abandoned state facilities.
While the plan was inspired by the deteriorating condition of an abandoned state prison in Joliet, it could have ramifications for the future of empty prison facilities in Tamms and Dwight, a shuttered developmental center in Jacksonville and a youth prison in Murphysboro.
State Sen. Gary Forby, a Benton Democrat whose district includes the recently closed Tamms prison, said the measure could help businesses and communities.
“We need to do something to put people back to work,” Forby said.
The legislation would allow a private investor to receive a state income tax credit equal to 30 percent of the cost of refurbishing a former state facility.
The credit would be available only for work on state facilities shuttered within the last two years that had at least 100 employees, meaning it would not be available to help Lincoln Developmental Center, which was closed in 2002.
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“After suffering numerous state facility closures last year, I felt this measure was necessary to help communities get back on their feet,” said state Sen. Tony Munoz, a Chicago Democrat who is sponsoring the proposal.
The measure is co-sponsored by state Sen. Sam McCann, a Carlinville Republican whose district was hit by the effects of a facility closure when Gov. Pat Quinn closed the developmental center in Jacksonville last year.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to be a good neighbor with our communities,” McCann said.
State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, voted in favor of the legislation, but he said he was concerned the incentives might result in a company moving from one side of a town to the other, leaving a defunct property in its wake.
But, said state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, a closed state facility sitting dormant can be “a wound that never heals.”
“First we lose jobs for local residents and business for local suppliers, then we have fires, vandalism, and an eyesore. This bill gives private investors an incentive to put these facilities to new use, putting people to work and putting these properties back on the tax rolls,” McGuire said.
The measure won unanimous support in the Senate and now moves to the House for further debate.
The legislation is Senate Bill 341.