SPEED LIMIT TO 70?
Only months after a 2009 law went into effect allowing big trucks to travel 65 miles per hour on certain Illinois interstates, a measure has been introduced to increase the state speed limit to 70 miles per hour for both cars and big rigs on interstates outside of heavily populated areas, like Chicago or collar counties and other urban areas.
Proponents noted that interstates are designed for vehicles to travel safely up to 80 miles per hour, and almost every surrounding state has already posted the 70 miles per hour speed limit for both cars and trucks.
Senate Bill 3668 narrowly passed the Senate Executive Committee, as opponents cited safety concerns relating to the proposed speed increase.
The Executive Committee also approved legislation — despite Senate Republican protests — that would authorize the state to commit to $300 million in short-term borrowing for healthcare and human service providers.
Senate Bill 3383 would allow the Illinois Finance Authority to sell $300 million in bonds to provide short-term, zero-interest loans to “financially distressed” providers. Those are providers who get at least 40 percent of their revenues from the state. The state would repay the bonds by diverting revenues from cigarette taxes that are currently going to finance state payments to nursing homes.
Though proponents say delayed payments to the state’s healthcare providers have created serious fiscal issues for the providers, opponents strongly object to any additional state borrowing and question why revenues that are currently going to nursing homes should be tapped for this initiative.
Republican committee members voted against the proposal, urging their Democrat counterparts to restructure, cut and manage the state budget, instead of relying on short-term borrowing.
EVEN MORE BORROWING
The entire Senate considered two additional borrowing measures earlier in the week.
Senate Bill 1425 allows the Governor to short-term borrow $250 million for Medicaid without Comptroller or Treasurer approval. The plan was ultimately approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, though Republican lawmakers strongly opposed the bill, pointing to the $11 billion the state has borrowed since 2003—with interest costs topping $100 million.
Additionally, legislation that would allow public universities, including the University of Illinois and Northeastern Illinois University, to short-term borrow up to 75 percent of the money owed to them by the state (Senate Bill 642) was reluctantly approved by a majority of the Senate. While lawmakers expressed concerns about even more borrowing, supporters pointed out that the schools are already owed the money and the bill gives universities needed flexibility to cope with the state’s inability to pay colleges in a timely manner.