SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS FOR I-74
On May 9, Representative Bill Mitchell of Forsyth and I announced $2.9 million in safety improvements for a crash-prone stretch of Interstate 74 where two teens lost their lives earlier this year.
In January, Tremont High School seniors Michael Honan II and Celine Estes lost their lives when a pickup truck they were in crossed the median and collided head-on with a school bus carrying fellow classmates on Interstate 74. There were multiple accidents near that location that day, due to extremely slick, icy conditions. This deadly stretch of interstate near Carlock has seen many serious automobile accidents and four fatalities since 2007.
Representative Mitchell and I were joined May 9 by Representative Dan Brady of Bloomington, Representative Keith Sommer of Morton, Tremont Mayor Todd Bong, Illinois Department of Transportation engineer Dennis Markwell; Dr. and Mrs. Michael Honan, parents of Michael Honan II; Carla Estes, mother of Celine Estes; and Lori McCoy and children, Chelsea and Nick, family of Jim McCoy who was killed in an accident in the same spot on Jan. 22, 2008.
The Illinois Department of Transportation plans a number of safety enhancements, including more than six miles of cable barrier to be installed in the I-74 median between the Carlock Interchange and County Highway 39 to prevent cross-over crashes. Bidding on the project is expected to begin next month, with construction to start soon afterward.
BUDGET FORCED THROUGH
After a week full of Committee meetings, Senate Democrat lawmakers waited until Friday afternoon to skip the Committee process and rush through budget proposals that would increase state spending, lock the state into a permanent 67 percent tax increase and very likely force higher tax increases in the future.
The budget measures were passed even though lawmakers from both parties, and Illinois citizens, were denied the opportunity to review the fiscal proposals in any meaningful fashion.
On May 13, the Senate began voting on budget amendments a mere 45 minutes after the bills were filed. Republican lawmakers questioned the rush to pass the measures, noting that they had no opportunity to review the bills, and commenting that many Democrat legislators likely hadn’t either.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers continued to push for realistic spending caps needed to assure that the 67 percent tax increase adopted in January will actually be temporary. The spending cap legislation (SB 1405) would roll back the excessive spending limits adopted in the tax hike measure to a level needed to allow the state to pay off old bills, balance its budgets and roll back the tax hikes.
No Republicans supported the tax increase in January and Senate Republicans pushed for spending reductions in a detailed “Reality Check” plan to restore the state’s financial integrity. After first scheduling a hearing on the spending caps, majority Democrats cancelled the May 13 meeting of the Executive Committee, thereby avoiding a vote on the spending limits.
HOUSE BUDGET HAS GREATER CUTS
In the Illinois House, lawmakers have begun sending their budget recommendations to the floor for debate, aiming for a budget document that is approximately $1 billion less than proposals being floated by Governor Pat Quinn and Senate Democrats. On May 12, House legislators approved reductions to education spending, while a number of other cuts were made to smaller state agencies.
Notably, House legislators confirmed that no budget dollars have been allocated for union raises negotiated by Governor Quinn and union leaders. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) labor union is being urged to either forego wage increases or cut jobs, sacrifices that many others in state government have been forced to make.
REPORT: QUINN BUDGET MAKES FINANCES WORSE
In other news, Civic Federation cautioned that Governor Quinn’s budget plan would make the state’s financial condition worse.
The Federation report released May 9 asserts that Governor Quinn’s budget proposal erroneously includes $976 million that is already dedicated to refund state income taxes. The Governor’s overestimation, coupled with his $1.45 billion in recommended spending increases, result in what the Civic Federation says would be a $2.4 billion shortfall.
Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, was quoted in a statement saying, “Alarmingly, even though the State raised income taxes significantly this year, the new revenues would not be enough to support the Governor’s budget.”
The Civic Federation also criticized Governor Quinn’s proposal to borrow almost $9 billion, noting that the Governor’s borrowing plan would cost taxpayers up to $4 billion in interest over 15 years.
Rejecting increased spending and borrowing to pay the state’s bills, the report emphasized that “the state must stop pushing its current financial problems into the future” and “rely on budgetary restraint to honor its commitments to vendors, local governments and taxpayers.”