Illinois Tries a Pilot Historic Rehab Tax Credit, for One Project

by Michael R. Allen

Although last year’s effort to pass an Illinois state historic rehabilitation tax credit did not pass the legislature, a very specific pilot program did pass and receive Governor Pat Quinn’s signature. Senate Bill 2534 created a one-time 25% tax credit against the income of the owners of the historic Pere Marquette Hotel in Peoria (1927). The $40 million rehabilitation project that the owners have started must follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Rehabilitation in order to receive credits.

Yesterday the Peoria Journal Star published the article “Preservationists watching hotel pilot project in Peoria”, a good analysis of the pilot program and the larger effort to pass a statewide tax credit. There are obvious questions. Is the tax credit “pilot” really a pilot if the legislature does not pass the statewide credit? Why choose one $40 million project in a larger city instead of several smaller projects totaling $40 million across the state? Did the owners of the hotel make political headway that other owners will never make?

The “pilot” project is a good one, but there are so many others across the state equally worthy of the state’s consideration. All will create jobs and generate local sales and income tax revenues. The legislature should pass a credit open to all. If Illinois cannot afford a 25% credit, the legislature should look at a different figure that the state can. Missouri’s tax credit program is the model used by Illinois legislatures that crafted last year’s bill. One of the reasons the tax credit is a model is because it is open to all who qualify and the application process is not subject to approval by or the influence of elected officials. Illinois’ first attempt to create a historic tax credit greatly underscores that fact.

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