* Subscribers were kept abreast of this development yesterday…
The Illinois House Thursday overwhelmingly passed a $1.1 billion road-and-bridge package stripped up of what the GOP characterized as pork as the spring legislative session neared a hectic end with several key issues still unresolved. […]
That plan passed the House by a 97-11 vote, with four members voting “present,” in a push sought by labor unions. That measure now heads to the Senate, which also has to vote on a budget Friday or Saturday. Separate legislation to fund the program is up for a House vote Friday. […]
The plan will be paid for, in part, through higher vehicle registration fees put in place in the late 1990s that were used to float construction bonds under former Gov. George Ryan. Some of those bonds have now been paid off by the state.
Led by House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, Republicans forced the plan to be scaled back from a $1.6 billion package originally sought by House Democrats, arguing that the hundreds of millions of dollars that were stripped away could have been earmarked for no-strings-attached, election-year goodies.
House Bill 3794 calls for $1.1 billion in construction spending, $1 billion of which would go to road and bridge projects included in IDOT’s 5-year plan. The bill does not list the projects because they would be determined by IDOT, but sponsor Rep. Luis Arroyo said that the department plans to prioritize projects that are ready to go during the summer construction season. The remaining $100 million would go to local street repair projects. The money for construction would come from funding sources approved as part of the 1999 Illinois First capital program. Borrowing for the plan has been paid off, but the increased fees and taxes remain. “Some of that debt has been retired. It’s been paid off, and the revenue stream that was used to support it is now available,” said House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The plan passed with bipartisan support. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said that after the particularly harsh winter, the state’s roads need work. “Illinois roads were clobbered.” He said that while Republicans opposed other construction projects passed in the House yesterday, this pared-down plan is “responsible” because the spending will be decided by IDOT instead of legislators. “It’s a smaller bill, but this is going to get us through the end of the year.”
But some lawmakers questioned spending money that could otherwise go into the general revenue fund on a rushed capital bill that does not include anything other than road and bridge projects. “I think this is the wrong time to do this, and I think this is the wrong approach,” said Northbrook Democrat Rep. Elaine Nekritz. and Proponents argued that this plan can be accomplished now to get people to work in the coming months, and the issue of a larger capital plan could be revisited later. “Bottom line, this is going to put people to work. Those people will pay taxes, and some of those taxes will come to the state of Illinois,” said Madigan.
Other members complained they did not know what road projects would be included in the program, although many lawmakers had copies of a project list provided to them by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said the program will focus on “shovel ready” projects that can be undertaken quickly. The projects are coming from IDOT’s five-year plan, which outlines both current road projects and those planned for the future. She said some of the future projects could get moved up under the program.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said the capital bill was scaled back from its original idea. At first, he said, it also contained $500 million for building projects other than roads.
“I had concerns with pork-barrel spending,” Durkin said. “We were not going to participate in a program with that type of discretionary spending.”
That part of the bill was removed, leaving only road and bridge projects, which Durkin supported.
You can see IDOT’s full five-year plan broken down into legislative districts by clicking here. Only some of those projects will be funded by this new capital bill.
* Legislators will have to trust IDOT to be fair. Check out the way that a billion of that $1.1 billion is appropriated…
The sum of $1,000,000,000, or so much thereof 5 as may be necessary for statewide purposes, is appropriated from the Transportation Bond Series D Fund to the Department of Transportation for preliminary engineering and construction engineering and contract costs of construction, including reconstruction, extension and improvement of state and local highways, arterial highways, roads, access areas, roadside shelters, rest areas, and fringe parking facilities and sanitary facilities, and such other purposes as provided 1by the “Illinois Highway Code”; for purposes allowed or required by Title 23 of the U.S. Code; for bikeways as provided by Public Act 78-850; for land acquisition and signboard removal and control and preservation of natural beauty; and for capital improvements which directly facilitate an effective vehicle weight enforcement program, such as scales (fixed and portable), scale pits and scale installations and scale houses, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations for the state and local portions of the Road Improvement Program.
* House members voting “No” yesterday were…
Kelly Burke, Scott Drury, Kay Hatcher, Fran Hurley, Jeanne Ives, Dwight Kay, Dave McSweeney, Tom Morrison, Elaine Nekritz, Sandi Pihos, Ann Williams.