Groups seek hearing over Illiana tax break request

Environmental protection groups are seeking a public hearing to address a recent filing by the Illinois Department of Revenue requesting tax breaks for the seemingly dead Illiana Expressway and the South Suburban Airport projects.

In a letter to the IDR dated Wednesday, the Environmental Law & Policy Center along with 20 other signatories, has requested a public hearing with the Illinois Department of Revenue regarding IDR’s proposed rules creating sales tax exemptions for materials used for the proposed Illiana Tollway and proposed Peotone airport.

Earlier this month, Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration sought approval for tax breaks for building materials that would be used to construction the 47-mile tollway connecting Interstate 55 in Wilmington to Interstate 65 in Indiana, as well as the Peotone airport.

Opponents argue the move contradicts the Rauner administration’s decision last month to nix the controversial Illiana Expressway project by removing it from the Illinois Department of Transportation’s current multi-year plan.

“[The Environmental Law & Policy Center] is perplexed why Gov. Rauner appears to be moving forward with actions related to the proposed Illiana Tollway when he publicly stated that he requested it be removed from the Illinois Dept. of Transportation’s multi-year plan,” Judith Nemes, a spokesperson for ELPC, said in an email.

It’s unclear whether the request, which wasn’t filed within the allowed 14-day time frame, will be granted, Nemes said.

The letter states the public hearing should be granted because the public is intensely interested in this issue.

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly insisted earlier this week that the Illiana is still on ice. She said the filing is part of the rule-making process as required by 2010 legislation passed by lawmakers allowing for tax exemptions for building materials used in the Illiana project.

“It is in no way an effort to revive a project that IDOT has pulled from its multi-year plan,” Kelly said in an email.