State works to pass budget, make improvements

By Renee Chacko

Despite Governor Rod Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones’ urgent plea on Wednesday for House and Senate support of capital plan recommendations as laid out by the Illinois Works Coalition, several House and Senate members are skeptical about how the governor will raise the funds. Although Saturday’s adjournment deadline is fast approaching, General Assembly members remain cautious to draft or sponsor the recommended capital infrastructure plan.

While passing a working state budget is a top priority for Illinois legislators, passing a nine-year over-due capital infrastructure plan has been in the back of their minds. If a budget is not passed before Saturday, Congress risks either having to extend their session or being called to session by the governor, which would then require a three-fifths vote in each chamber.

“It’s going to be very difficult to pass a capital budget with three-fifths vote, ” state Sen. Mike Frerichs (Champaign) said.

Both the House and Senate have expressed the importance and urgency of passing a capital budget as well as appropriating money for a capital infrastructure plan.

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard lead the Illinois Works Coalition which recommended methods of funding as well as laid out a budget breakout for a capital infrastructure plan last week. The plan would give money to the University’s Lincoln Hall renovation, deferred maintenance jobs, a Petascale Computing Facility and to post harvest crop research facility. The $31 billion requested by the plan comes from sources such as motor fuel taxes, increased gaming, federal funds and leasing management rights of the state lottery to private entrepreneurs.

“It certainly goes without saying that the longer we put it off, the worse it will get,” Frerichs said. “It will be incredibly helpful to the University to pass a plan as introduced by Hastert and Poshard.”

Main opposition to passing a plan, however, comes from a general lack of trust of the governor’s funding plans, Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (Urbana) said.

“The major problems facing the plan is that we don’t know where support or funding will come from,” she said. “Currently, there is no bill to even look at.”

Jakobsson also emphasized the importance of the governor following through on his promises to the University. Both Frerichs and Jakobsson support appropriations suggested in previous plans and within the task force’s recommendations, but agree that several House members are untrusting of how the governor will carry out raising funds.