Lansing Municipal Airport vs. Cook County leasehold tax – Chapter 2


Lansing Voices

Bob Malkas, former Manager of the Lansing Municipal Airport

Lansing next became involved with the leasehold tax with the Illinois passage of PA 97-1161, which was intended to create an exemption from property tax on leasehold interests owned by the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Rock Island County used by FBO businesses.

Legislative debates on HB 4110 were clear and unambiguous as to the law’s purpose: to provide property tax relief for Fixed-Base Operator Elliott Aviation. It was equally clear that the General Assembly did not want to extend the same property relief to any operator at other Illinois airports.

Some efforts were being made to amend the legislation to include Lansing for the same treatment, but those efforts were rebuffed.

When HB 4110 was signed into law as PA 97-1161 it benefitted one solitary FBO at a single Illinois airport.

When the Moline School District learned that the law would deny them a $150,000 annual tax infusion, they filed an action to have it declared unconstitutional. The legal wranglings that followed were no real concern for Lansing involvement.

What Lansing should have noticed was that PA 97-1161 clearly discriminated against them in favor of FBO at another Illinois airport as the court held. No other FBO providing aeronautical services was given similar treatment.

The court did post an official record of the case providing some possible answers. The discussion on the floor of the House in response to the Senate’s unsuccessful attempt to extend the tax break to a second airport is recorded, but it does not point us to a rational basis for the narrow reach either. During the discussion the legislation’s primary sponsor, Representative Verschoore, stated, “Senate Amendments 1 and 2 added another airport to this land-based lease. I tried to pass this for Quad City Airport only and when it went to the Senate, they added the Lansing Airport and so what I’m trying to do is get it back to the original Bill where it included just Quad City Metropolitan Airport.”

This exchange followed:

(Representative) Franks: What is your objection to adding the extra one?

(Representative) Verschoore: Well, there was objection from people higher up than me.

Franks: Oh.

Verschoore: So I guess that’s my objection.

Franks: I get it. Okay. Well, thank you.

Elliott Aviation speculates that the “higher ups” reference by Representative Verschoore (whoever those might have been) had perfectly good and legitimate reasons for granting special treatment for FBOs leased property for MAA in Rock Island County and not extending the same benefit to anyone else.

This appears to be a clear-cut case for all Lansing FBOs to ask for answers. It could also be a basis to prepare an argument for Cook County to exempt Lansing both now and in the future from having to pay a leasehold tax.

If you were intending to locate an FBO, which would provide better opportunities to be successful — Lansing or Quad Cities?

Bob Malkas

Lansing Voices is our version of “Letters to the Editor.” The opinions posted here are those of the writers, and posting them does not indicate endorsement by The Lansing Journal. We welcome input from fellow residents who have thoughtful things to say about topics that are important to our community. Send your submissions to The Lansing Journal with “Voices” in the subject line.