Governor Vetoes Bill to Create Urban Agriculture Zones in Illinois

Alex Ruppenthal reported earlier this week at WTTW Television (Chicago) Online that, “Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday vetoed a bill to facilitate urban agriculture zones in Chicago and other Illinois cities, delivering a blow to advocates who said the legislation could have helped to break up food deserts and revitalize underserved communities.

The bill would have allowed local governments to provide incentives such as reduced water rates and utility fees and property tax abatements for farmers in urban agriculture zones established at the municipal or county level.

“Introduced last year by state Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, the bill received support from both environmental advocates and groups focused on increasing access to healthy foods in urban areas.”

The WTTW update noted that, “This spring, the legislation passed the Illinois House by a vote of 86-22 and the state Senate by a unanimous 55-0 vote.

“But Rauner issued an amendatory veto Monday, proposing to strip the bill of property tax abatements and other incentives that would have benefitted urban farmers.

“Using property tax abatements to incentivize growing ‘would continue a problematic pattern of shifting property taxes to other taxpayers who may or may not directly benefit from the creation of these Urban Agriculture Zones,’ Rauner said in his veto message. ‘Abatements like this simply redistribute property taxes, when homeowners are already struggling under the immense weight of their own tax burdens.'”

The update added: “‘We didn’t see any real organized opposition in either chamber,’ [Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council] said. ‘We had worked with the Department of Agriculture and the [Illinois] Farm Bureau and felt like we had a great bill.'”

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