CHICAGO - Legislaton for a $10.8 billion partially bond-financed airport in Chicago has been approved by the Illinois House but faces tough opposition in the Senate, where the minority leader is actively lobbying lawmakers to defeat the bill.
As of yesterday afternoon, the bill was stalled in the Senate while legislative leaders met with Gov. Jim Edgar to discuss the airport and the state's fiscal 1993 budget.
Dave Jones, a spokesman for Senate President Phil Rock, D-Oak Park, said Mr. Rock still hoped to pass the bill by midnight tonight, the scheduled end of the legislative session and the fiscal year.
The bill is opposed by Senate Minority Leader James Philip, R-Elmhurst, who has supported rural Illinnois sites that had been rejected by an Illinois-Indiana site selection committee that chose Chicago for the airport in February.
If the bill is not approved by the end of the session, Mr. Jones said it would need 36 votes instead of 30 votes for passage. Illinois law requires a three-fifths majority vote for bills considered in an overtime session.
On June 17, Gov. Jim Edgar of Illinois, Gov. Even Bayh of Indiana, and Mayor Richard Daly of Chicago signed an agreement to form the authority, pending approval of the two state legislatures. The bistate would would also need approval from Congress.
The airport bill sets up the governing structure for the authority that would initially have five directors representing Chicago and two each from Illinois and Indiana.
A majority of each group of directors would be needed before any bonds are issued for the new airport. Chicago's financing plan calls for the issuance between 1996 and 2014 of $8.7 billion of revenue bonds, backed the proceeds from passenger facility charges, landing fees, and other airport revenues, as wells as the use of federal aviation and road funds.
The bill would also turn over the approximately $3.8 billion of out-standing bonds Chicago has issued for O'Hare Airport to the authority as long as the transfer of the bonds does not impair any contractual agreements between the city and bondholders. The bill would also prohibit the transfer if it would result in the bonds being treated as taxable debt under federal income tax laws.
Edward Gower, chief counsel for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said that even if Chicago retains its obligation for the bonds, the authority would be charged with making debt service payments on the bonds with airport revenues, funneling the payments through the city.
The airport bill sets a goal of 25% participation by minority firms and 5% participation by women-owned firms for all contracts for the new airport, including contracts for bond-related services, according to Mr. Gower. He added that the legislation calls for the affirmative action goal to be met to the extent permitted by the U.S., Illinois, and Indiana constitutions.
After failing three times in the House this month, the airport legislation passed after being sweetened with provisions that would give more local input into runway use, flight patterns, and noise abatement issues at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports. The additions were made in order to attract support from members representing communities near the airport.
That aspect of the airport legislation supercedes a bill introduced by House Minority Leader Lee Daniels, R-Addison, and other Republican lawmakers in April. That bill would have created a special noise abatement commission empowered to leverage federal aviation trust fund money through bonding, using the proceeds for soundproofing buildings around the city's airports. The bill had been introduced even though the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits the use of those funds to repay bondholders.
Mr. Gower said the two noise abatement commissions set up by the airport legislation would be empowered to apply for federal soundproofing grants, but would not have any bonding authority.
Scott Hamilton, a spokesman for Mr. Daniels, said Mr. Daniel's bill was "rolled into" the airport legislation. He added that while the minority leader supported the noise provisions contained in the new legislation, Mr. Daniels voted against the airport bill "because it does not meet the needs of his constituents."
Gov. Bayh, who is up for re-election in November, has said the Indiana Legislature would consider the airport authority proposal when it convenes in January and that he does not expect the airport to be a "divisive" issue with lawmakers.
However, his Republican opponent, Linley Pearson, Indiana's attorney general, opposes the airport, which will partially lie in northweast Indiana. Jim Poinsett, Mr. Pearson's press secretary, said that if elected, Mr. Pearson would veto any appropriations or tax incentives that the legislature may approve for the airport.
"he [bistate aggreement] basically would be null and void," Mr. Poinset added.