Capital Budget Battle

By Denise Jackson

July 15, 2010 Updated Jun 17, 2008 at 8:17 PM CDT

Some local business leaders joined a bipartisan group of state legislators today on an urgent call for approval of a capital budget.

A bipartisan group of legislators joined together with local business leaders, union members, and members of the Illinois Works Coalition at the Gateway Center to call on the General Assembly to pass a capital plan this summer. The Gateway Center overlooks the I-74 Murray-Baker Bridge, a state infrastructure achievement which shows the benefits of investing in state capital.

At the end of the legislative session, three of the four legislative caucuses came together to support the Illinois Works capital plan and the Senate passed the capital bill with bipartisan support. After the House Democratic leadership used a procedural maneuver to block that capital bill, the Governor called on legislative leaders to come together to pass this bipartisan plan before the month’s end.

“I am hopeful that the Governor and the legislative leaders will meet over the next two weeks and iron out any differences they may have on this bill so the state can access the nine billion dollars of transportation funds awaiting our match at the federal level and so we can avoid losing another construction season and a ten percent increase in costs to the taxpayers of Illinois,” said SIU President and co-Chairman of the Illinois Works Coalition Glenn Poshard.

In addition to supporting more than 500,000 jobs statewide, Illinois Works will address the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges, build and repair schools across the state, and provide resources for statewide economic development. The final bill is drawn from a set of recommendations presented by Illinois Works Coalition Co-Chairs Former Speaker of the U.S. House J. Dennis Hastert and Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard. For the last three months, Hastert and Poshard have led the effort to build consensus on a statewide infrastructure improvement bill. The last capital bill was passed in 1999.

“This is the time for a capital bill. We have waited long enough for road and bridge infrastructure, for updated classrooms, and for community development. The House leadership has acknowledged the need, but killed Illinois Works with a procedural maneuver; and we will not stand for that,” said Representative Jay Hoffman (D – Collinsville).

“I hope that we can come together and quickly make this capital plan a reality. As legislators, our job is to do what’s best for the people and for the state,” said Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria). “The sooner we pass this capital plan, the sooner we can make life for our constituents better.”

“We need more jobs to push our economy forward and strengthen it. We also need to work on our infrastructure and make sure it can support the needs of this continually growing state,” said Senator Dale Risinger (R-Peoria). “The Capital plan would make both of those things a reality and I support it.”

“As a member of the Illinois Works Coalition and someone who is involved in business in Illinois, I can say this bill is crafted in a way that will create jobs for Illinois workers,” said Larry Ivory, President and CEO Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce. “With the current state of our economy, nothing is more important to families right now than creating over 600,000 good jobs for Illinoisans. We need to do this now.”

In early March, Gov. Blagojevich appointed Hastert and Poshard as co-chairs of the Illinois Works Coalition. The duo focused on crafting and passing an infrastructure and jobs bill that would address pressing capital needs that have built up since the last public works plan was passed nine years ago all in a bi-partisan effort. The co-chairs facilitated regular meetings with the Governor and four legislative caucuses to draft a capital plan that could be acceptable to all participants. Three of the four leaders participated in those negotiations. In the end, the House Democratic leadership used procedural maneuvers to kill the negotiated capital plan before it could be voted on by the full House.

Two weeks ago Governor Blagojevich announced that the Fiscal Year 2009 budget passed by the General Assembly on Saturday contains $2.1 billion more in spending than anticipated revenue will support, making it unconstitutional. The Illinois State Constitution requires the legislature to pass a balanced budget. The Governor has called the four legislative leaders together this week to resume work so the people of Illinois will have a budget that fulfills constitutional requirements and meets the state’s needs by July 1.

The Illinois Works capital plan passed by the Senate includes the following:

· Invest $34 billion in transportation, education, energy, health care, environmental and water, economic development and other critical infrastructure and quality of life needs for the citizens of Illinois.

· Provide a capital improvement plan clearly identifying timelines, priorities and funding sources for projects within each of these investment categories.

· Fund education construction projects and mass transportation investments with $7 billion partial lottery concession.

· Create Capital and Educational Trust Funds with “lockbox” accountability guarantees for capital investments and continuation of the current level of lottery proceeds for P-12 education.

· Use motor fuel taxes to support bonded road projects that allow nearly $2 billion in additional projects

· Expand gaming (Chicago Casino, one additional riverboat license, increases in positions at existing riverboats, and availability of electronic gaming at racetracks) to raise $600 million annually in new revenues for debt service for environmental and water, energy, economic development, health care, state facilities, and other critical purposes.

According to a study the study by Southern Illinois University, a comprehensive capital plan would have tremendous economic benefits for the state. The study found a capital plan would create 535,000 new full-time jobs, lead to $49 billion in economic activity and more than $2.9 billion in state and local tax revenues. The Illinois Works Coalition has held a dozen events statewide since the beginning of March.

Examples of local capital projects in the Peoria area include:

-$17.9 million for new roadway construction for Technology Boulevard between Washington Street and Edmund Street.
-$23.1 million for construction of additional lanes for 1.2 miles, land acquisition, utility adjustments and engineering of Illinois 8 from Summit Road in Sunnyland to Business 24 in Washington.
-$35.6 million for additional lanes for 3.7 miles, land acquisition and utility adjustments for US 24 from Peyton Creek to Kingston Mines.
-$5.9 million for improvements to Allen/Alta Road Intersection.
Over $4 million to improve bridges along Illinois 8 in Peoria County.
-$4.6 million to replace the bridge on I-80 at Coal Creek.
-$8.8 million to replace the bridge at I-80 and Hennepin Canal west of Illinois 40.
-$1.3 million for a new bridge at US6 at King Creek.
Over $1.1 million for a new bridge at Illinois 78 from Walnut Creek.
-$4.125 million for a new bridge on Illinois 89 at Crow Creek south of Illinois 17.
-$8 million for a new bridge at Illinois 97 at the Spoon River south east of Maquon.
-Over $1 million for a new bridge at Illinois 116/117.
-The Peoria Civic Center has been allocated $4,200,000 under the FY 08 capital program.
-$325,000 for the Natural History Survey in Havana, Mason County to construct a pedestrian bridge.

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