Northwest suburban leaders decry new Bears bill, but Moylan says it's not 'my first rodeo'
Reaction to new legislation filed to support the Bears' move to Arlington Heights -- while helping pay for the old Soldier Field renovation debt -- was negative across the Northwest suburbs Friday.
But the bill's sponsor says he's trying to make improvements to an initial proposal he called "dead in the water" by getting buy-in from Chicago legislators opposed to any kind of Bears suburban subsidy while the city is left holding the bag.
State Rep. Marty Moylan's bill would keep the Payments in Lieu of Taxes proposal being pushed by the Bears and business groups. If adopted, that would freeze the assessment at Arlington Park and allow the NFL franchise to make negotiated payments to local taxing bodies such as schools.
But the new proposed legislation would add a $3-per-ticket head tax on every admission to a new Bears stadium. The extra money would be used to pay down Chicago's debt from the 2002 renovation of Soldier Field, which is now estimated to cost more than $600 million in principal and interest.
The bill also would set up a local oversight board with the power to approve or deny the incentive agreement negotiated between Arlington Heights and the Bears that establishes how much the local taxing districts would get in lieu of their regular amount of property taxes. The board could also approve or deny the village's zoning actions for the Bears' proposed $5 billion redevelopment.
Voting members of the panel would include the mayors of Arlington Heights and Rolling Meadows; superintendents of Northwest Suburban High School District 214, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Palatine Township Elementary District 15; state Sen. Ann Gillespie and state Reps. Mary Beth Canty and Mark Walker; and the executive director of the Salt Creek Rural Park District. Advisory members would include Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, mayors from other Northwest suburban towns, other area legislators and state agencies.
And the legislation would dole out percentages of state revenue from taxes on sales, hotel, liquor and sports wagering from the Bears' development to help pay for the towns' added infrastructure costs. Arlington Heights would get 35% from the special fund; Cook County, Rolling Meadows and Palatine would get 10% each; Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and Wheeling would get 7% each.
In some ways, it resembles legislation crafted when Moylan was mayor of Des Plaines and the city was awarded the license that led to the opening of Rivers Casino in 2011. But as part of the deal, Des Plaines has to share gambling tax revenues with 10 South suburban communities.
"I brought one of the biggest, most successful casinos online when I was mayor," said Moylan, a Democratic member of the state House since 2013. "So I'm used to working and promoting and getting mega projects done. This isn't my first rodeo on these big projects."
But some of those named in the bill say they weren't consulted and were surprised when the proposal surfaced.
"I really don't understand how things work down in Springfield," Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said. "They have their policies and procedures, but you would hope that legislators that introduce bills talk to the stakeholders before they introduce legislation that's going to impact those stakeholders."
Hayes took exception with the "local control" he says the legislation would take from Arlington Heights, and he questioned how some communities were included in the infrastructure fund list and others were not, as well as the varying percentages.
But the mayor did say he hopes Moylan's bill leads to further discussions in Springfield that would help the Bears' suburban relocation become a reality.
Similarly, Rolling Meadows City Manager Rob Sabo said the allocation methodology of state revenues doesn't "accurately reflect" the anticipated financial and operational impacts the stadium would have on his city, which borders the 326-acre shuttered racetrack on the south and west.
"It is difficult to understand how Rolling Meadows is proposed to get only 3% more than other communities listed," Sabo said. "We have a significant border with that property."
District 214 Co-interim Superintendent Ken Arndt in a statement said the district also wasn't consulted about the bill, but officials are currently reviewing it.
A spokesman for the Bears -- which have been pushing the so-called PILOT concept -- declined to comment on Moylan's bill. But the football club has previously denied suggestions it should help pay the debt service for Soldier Field since it's a tenant that already contributed $200 million to renovations.