A freshman lawmaker from Central Illinois is seeking a second term after making his mark opposing Gov. JB Pritzker’s agenda.
101st District State Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) sent out a news release late Sunday night saying far-left extremists who control the Democratic Party pushed through the most radical agenda in the state’s history.
Caulkins cited passage of a capital bill that doubled the state’s gas tax, 21 other tax increases, and a radical abortion bill.
Um, a whole lot of Rep. Caulkins’ Republican colleagues voted for that “far-left extremist” and “radical agenda” of raising the state’s Motor Fuel Tax. Caulkins is, of course, a member of the Eastern Bloc.
* After the session ended in June, WCIA’s Mark Maxwell interviewed Rep. Caulkins about issues surrounding the capital bill…
Maxwell: How would you describe, right now, in 2019, the condition of the roads and highways in your district?
Caulkins: They’re the same as they are throughout central Illinois. We’re no different.
Maxwell: OK, what is the condition in the state, of the roads, the bridges, the transit?
Caulkins: That depends where you live.
Maxwell: You just said two different things.
Caulkins: No, you asked about my district and then you asked about the state, other places in Illinois. And there are places in Illinois where the roads are in fairly decent shape. Take the bypass around Bloomington. Now you go north on Interstate 39 out of Bloomington and there’s some issues. I-55 once you get out of McLean County there’s some issues. But there are places, Champaign, the roads around Champaign, the highways and the interestates. In the townships, there are highways and bridges that need desperate attention.
Maxwell: One of your House Republican colleagues stood up on the floor in the final moments of debate, and said that Illinois is on the verge, if the roads and their conditions continue to deteriorate, Illinois is on the verge of getting the valve shut off of federal funding because we’re so far out of compliance with how safe the roads are supposed to be, that it was really that bad. Wasn’t there some discussion, weren’t you considering at some point staging some sort of protest about the safety of the roads in your district?
Let’s stop the tape for a second. First, notice how he plays down the problems with transportation infrastructure, likely to help justify his “No” vote. Secondly, Rep. Caulkins did at one point talk about holding a “sit-in” or some other demonstration on Interstate 72 to protest the conditions of that roadway. He would’ve been right to do so because parts of that road are in disgraceful condition.
* Now, back to the interview…
Caulkins: We were. To your point, I heard that said on the House floor, I have not seen anything to that effect, I don’t know…
Maxwell: Why didn’t you go through with that demonstration?
Maxwell: You were considering this demonstration, you didn’t do it. Why not?
Caulkins: Because the state came along and, this is between the rest stop on the interstate and the Cisco exit, they’ve gone out and they’ve done a lot of patching work and they’ve filled it in temporarily I hope. But at least it’s passable. So IDOT they must’ve heard me.
Maxwell: You were pretty upset about that.
Caulkins: Two, three weeks they came out and they sought out some bad spots and they filled them in with asphalt patches. And I presume that today, actually is a huge day in IDOT, they’re letting bids out for road contracts.
So, a temporary asphalt patch was all it took? What happens when the temporary fix no longer works?
Maxwell: You end up not voting for it. How did you get there?
Caulkins: There was no plan to spend that money, first of all.
Maxwell: You don’t trust the Department of Transportation to allocate those funds?
Caulkins: Do you? I don’t. I don’t trust this government, no.
Well, they went out and patched the interstate, so at least they have that going for them.
Maxwell: How do you then go about putting safeguards in place to make sure those monies are spent the right way? There is a lock box, after all.
Caulkins: With the lock box, but then how do you allocate the money that’s within the lock box. This is the issue that was never addressed, Mark. They’ve asked for $40 billion with no specific plan. If they’d have come out and said ‘We’re going to do the five-year plan,” IDOT has a five-year plan. If the governor and the administration had said, ‘Look, here’s the five-year plan, this is what we need, this is how we’re going to pay for it, let’s talk about it,’ would’ve been a different discussion.
Maxwell: Are you saying that if you had more time to consider all of what was in that $45 billion capital plan you might have voted for it?
Caulkins: Not at 19 cents a gallon, not raising the license fees, not raising the fees that are on the middle class.
Maxwell: Where does the extra money come from?
Caulkins: The money is how do we spend what we have first. Show me what the projects are, show me where the income is. I asked. I asked for three weeks for a meeting with IDOT to come in and talk about what their priorities are, where they intended to spend the money. They didn’t see fit to come and talk with me.
Gee, I wonder why.
* Report finds Illinois’ roads deadlier in rural areas