Lawsuit Over Moline Tax Exemption Could Last Years - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Lawsuit Over Moline Tax Exemption Could Last Years

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The Moline School District will sue the state of Illinois over a tax exemption granted to Elliott Aviation.

A company that rents land at the Quad City Airport.

Two lawyers have also sent a letter to Rock Island County officials threatening to sue, unless the County upholds the Illinois Constitution.

The lawyers list three specific parts of the constitution they believe this one sentence law change violates.

Giving Elliott Aviation an advantage no other company renting land at an Illinois airport enjoys.

It won't be a quick decision from the courts, Rock Island County's top lawyer says the state supreme court likes to hear these cases.

A process that can take years.

"Going to the Supreme Court of Illinois is expensive, and it can take a long time," says Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee.

He says he'll have to defend the county if the lawyers end up suing them. For applying the tax exemption to Elliott Aviation lawmakers created at the end of last year.

"The constitutionality of a particular law is a long drawn out, difficult process generally," says McGehee.

He says it's not up to him to judge what is constitutional. That's a decision for the courts, and the lawyers threatening to sue say the law looks suspect. They highlight parts of the Illinois Constitution spelling out which properties can be tax exempt. Schools, hospitals, and churches are all on the list. Aviation companies are not. The constitution also prohibits lawmakers from creating a special local law, when a general, statewide one exists. Moline Superintendent Dave Moyer says that's the provision the schools are interested in.

"It's targeting a single private person and exempting them, which is not within the framework of the constitution," says Moyer.

McGehee says, "Lawmakers determine how to write the laws, they have their own staff, their own attorneys on staff, and then they make the decision of how they want to write those particular laws and I think that's what was done in this particular occasion."

McGehee estimates the legal challenge will take at least two years to work its way through the court system. It could take longer if a court has to wait for the county tax process to take effect. Right now, the tax exemption doesn't go into effect until June.

Lawmakers told KWQC at the time the law was written that it's needed to keep Elliott Aviation at the airport.

The company says airport land in other states where it operates is tax exempt.

It also says it needs the exemption to stay competitive.