By Mike Matejka
Now that the spring legislative session is over, it’s amazing to reflect all that was completed: a balanced budget, legalized cannabis and a long-overdue infrastructure bill to fix our roads and bridges.
New Governor J.B. Pritzker showed himself a diplomat. With a Democratic majority in the Illinois House and Senate, he could have rammed bills through, but Pritzker sincerely worked with Republicans and included them in the process. For the first time in a long time, there was a two way street in Springfield. The results showed with the infrastructure bill.
Illinois’ roads, bridges, rails, airports, waterways and transit systems are long overdue for repair and renovation. Rather than relying solely on bonding and passing a short-term capital bill, the legislators bravely voted for a ten year, long term maintenance bill for transportation. Fluid infrastructure is critical for economic development and a comfortable life for citizens.
Everyone wants their potholes fixed; but who will pay? Construction is an expensive undertaking and requires significant preplanning and preparation. It’s easy to vote for road repairs, it’s a harder vote to finance it.
I want to commend our three local Republicans, Senators Jason Barickman and Bill Brady, and State Representative Dan Brady. They not only voted favorably for the capital construction bill, but also for gas and licensing fee increases to finance the projects. Hopefully, voters will understand that this is a long-term commitment to improving and maintaining our state. Voters should also remember that in 2016 a “lock box” State Constitution amendment passed by an overwhelming majority. That means money for transportation can only be used for transportation purposes, not diverted to other programs.
Hopefully, Democrats and Republicans working together in Springfield will continue under Governor Pritzker. The newly-elected Governor helped complete an amazing first legislative session. This is welcome relief after four divisive years with Bruce Rauner. As Illinois State University’s campus is improved and our roads, bridges and other transportation systems see improvement, we’ll see a slight increase in gas tax payments is money well spent.
Mike Matejka is the Governmental Affairs director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, covering 11,000 union Laborers in northern Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. He lives in Normal. He served on the Bloomington City Council for 18 years, is a past president of the McLean County Historical Society and Vice-President of the Illinois Labor History Society. He currently serves on the Normal Planning Commission.
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