Illinois House OKs tax refund from Wood River hospital

News-DemocratNovember 6, 2013 

— The Illinois House on Wednesday approved legislation that will return $8.4 million from the defunct Wood River Township Hospital to taxpayers.

The bill passed 116-0 after debate over whether the money should be sent to property owners from Madison County's treasurer or the county's clerk. The treasurer, Kurt Prenzler, is a Republican, while the clerk, Debbie Ming-Mendoza, is a Democrat.

Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, argued that state law normally calls for the county treasurer to disperse checks. The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, argued that having the clerk send the checks is "business as usual."

The bill, which had already cleared the Senate and now goes to the governor, calls for the clerk to send the checks.

"It's a little political, and I just want the body to know that," Kay told colleagues. "But we'll take it."

The hospital closed in 2000. After 10 years of retiring debt and paying out pension benefits, the hospital fund has $8.4 million left over.

The hospital board, chaired by Chris Slusser, a Republican, voted recently to return the money to property taxpayers within the hospital's taxing district. Slusser has estimated that a person with a $100,000 home will receive a refund of $420 to $450.

Mayors of communities within the taxing district had proposed that the money be given to the communities for parks or roads.

But neither the hospital board nor the mayors have the authority to decide what to do with the surplus. State law requires that hospital tax money be spent on the hospital. Since the hospital no longer exists, new legislation was required to decide what will happen to the money.

A spokesman for Gov. Pat Quinn said the governor will sign the bill.

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