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Thomas Clatterbuck

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White Oaks Mall is a very important location in Springfield. While consumers may see it as a hub for shopping and recreation, the mall is also critical for the city’s finances. The mall is one of the largest tax generators in the whole region, both in terms of property and sales taxes. Since Springfield is heavily reliant on local sales tax, city leaders like to keep a close eye on the mall’s health.

So when two of the anchors in the mall announced they were closing, there was reason to be concerned. Both the Bergner’s and Sears will be closing this year. Sears had been in financial trouble for some time, but the loss Bergener’s was unexpected. City revenues were already stagnate; losing the mall could be devastating to an already precarious budget.

But these fears were somewhat allayed at last night’s Committee of the Whole meeting. Mall manger Clay Emerich spoke the council about the state of the mall. Not only did Mr. Emerich state that the mall was not planning to close, he pointed to the opportunities these closing present. Most of the mall is owned by Simon Property Group, but they did not own the two anchor locations. Simon potentially having access to far more space in the mall presents a number of options which are still being explored.

Emerich explained some of these future possibilities. Adding more entertainment options to balance out apparel was one. Other stores are already moving into the mall area, including a Pasta House that will replace the old Denny’s. He also stressed that malls across the region have taken hits of late. Their loss might be Springfield’s gain, if Simon can execute some of the strategies they are working on.

You can watch the full presentation in the player.

Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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Court upholds Illinois nuclear power subsidy law

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A federal appellate court ruling upheld Illinois’ law directing hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to nuclear plants and other green energy incentives.

The ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals says that Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act, a 2016 law providing Zero Emissions Credits to Exelon, the owner of several nuclear plants in the state, doesn’t unfairly manipulate the multi-state energy market that establishes rates.

The challenge was brought by the Electric Power Supply Association, a trade group for power plant owners that includes Dynegy, which has since been acquired by Vistra Energy. Vistra owns coal-fired plants in Illinois. Vistra wasn’t immediately available to respond to the ruling or say whether it will appeal the decision.

In Vistra’s lawsuit, the company claimed the subsidies allowed Exelon to submit unfairly low rates in the wholesale auction.

The panel ruled that “the Commerce Clause does not cut the states off from legislating on all subjects relating to the health, life, and safety of their citizens…”

Exelon released a statement Friday saying the company was “pleased to see that the Seventh Circuit Court affirmed dismissal of the ZEC complaint, thus supporting the continued operation of Illinois’ ZEC program and the clean, resilient and affordable electricity nuclear power provides.”

State Rep. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, who has two nuclear plants in her district, said it was good for clean and renewable energy.

“Many states are trying to figure out what to do to keep the nuclear plants online,” she said. “This opinion that just came out sounds like a step in the right direction.”

Both sides had said Illinois jobs were on the line as they looked to influence lawmakers.

Exelon warned in 2016 that it would likely have to close two Illinois plants, one near Clinton and another near the Quad Cities, and cut 1,500 jobs if the subsidies weren’t signed into law.

Dynegy said its Illinois-based plants face an uncertain future if the courts upheld the FEJA. This would mean 1,000 jobs in southern Illinois, an area facing a dearth of higher-paying jobs.

The Future Energy Jobs Act will charge utility customers an average of $2 per month over the next decade, sending $236 million to Exelon annually. In turn for the credits, ComEd, Exelon’s energy retailer, would invest in green jobs training and provide discounts to needy ratepayers.

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

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Davis, LaHood Announce Four USDOT Grants Investing in Local Airport Infrastructure

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PRESS RELEASE | U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) announced today that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded four local central Illinois airports with funding to invest in various projects ranging from runway rehabilitation, the purchase for ground operation equipment, and expansion of passenger terminals. Statements from the Congressmen, as well as details of the awards are below:

“Investing in our infrastructure is a critical part of growing our economy and that’s exactly what these grants will accomplish,” said Davis. “These four regional airports are essential to bringing economic opportunity to central Illinois and these grants will allow them to make necessary upgrades to improve service and safety. As someone who frequently flies in and out of central Illinois airports, I understand how important these continued investments are and I know my constituents will benefit greatly from these improvements.”

“Today is a great day for our local airports across central Illinois. With the latest awards from the U.S. Department of Transportation, these three local airports across central Illinois will have the ability to reconstruct runways, purchase new equipment to make ground operations smoother and safer during inclement winter weather, and expand a passenger terminal to improve the flow of passengers,” stated LaHood. “Air travel is a key economic driver for our local communities and I applaud the USDOT for their continued commitment to investing in our local transportation projects to help make travel safer, as well as more effective and efficient.”

The awards:

Central Illinois Regional Airport – $991,773
This project acquires one new and one replacement high-speed runway broom to keep the airport serviceable during snow periods and aid in the efficiency and safety of operations.

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport – $1,995,173

This project expands the terminal building to approximately 6,100 square feet to meet Federal Aviation Administration design standards and enable efficient movement of passengers. Earlier this year in June, both LaHood and Davis announced that the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport received $4.6 million in terminal upgrades. This grant is being increased from $4,628,998 to $6,625,171 and will allow for the final phase of upgrades to be completed.

Logan County Airport – $1,153,190
This grant includes discretionary funding for Logan County Airport to rehabilitate Runway 3/21

Decatur Airport – $1,567,562

This grant includes discretionary funding for Decatur Airport to rehabilitate Runway 6/24

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Rauner declares harvest emergency as stopgap until higher haul limits take effect next year

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an emergency declaration Friday to allow increased weight limits for Illinois agriculture haulers on Illinois roads.

Last month Rauner signed a law allowing permanently increased haul limits for permitted vehicles during harvest season, but that doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1. He said the declaration he signed Friday in Auburn at The Ladage Farm doesn’t have as much to do with the weather as it does with making Illinois farmers more competitive.

“The right answer for the permanent competitiveness of Illinois farmers is to make sure that our truckers and our commodities haulers and our farmers can get their product to market, fast, efficient, cost effectively,” Rauner said. “And 10 percent more weight now here in the fall can be on our commodities truckers going in.”

“That means every ten loads we’d have another load to haul so that’s gonna save us time and wear and tear and makes our harvest much quicker,” Ladage farm operator Brent Ladage said. “It adds up a lot, too.”

Illinois Farm Bureau’s Mark Reichert said the order and new law means trucks won’t have to vary their weights going from Illinois to neighboring states.

“So we’ve kind of mirrored now all of the states around, so there’s kind of an equilibrium now,” Reichert said.

Asked if possible increased wear and tear on local roads is an unfunded mandate on local taxpayers who pay to maintain the roads, Rauner he didn’t see that way.

“No, this is regulatory relief,” Rauner said. “This is cutting mandates, cutting regulations, which I’m all about. Eliminate as many regulations. This is freeing it up. There’s less regulatory restrictions now on our farmers.”

Rauner said fewer trucks on the road also diminishes wear and tear to roads that local taxpayers would have to maintain.

State Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton, said increased haul limits also is about safety.

“Less vehicles on the road which is very important with school season now going and schools are back in session,” Severin said.

Starting Monday, haulers can request permits for increased limits from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Article by Greg Bishop, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org 

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