Illinois’ fiscal shenanigans highlight need for a new federal transportation strategy
By Chrissy Mancini Nichols
Jun 13, 2011
This post first appeared at metroplanning.org
Before they adjourned for the summer, the Illinois General Assembly approved a $33.2 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 state budget - $2 billion less than what Gov. Quinn originally proposed and just shy of the $33.5 billion FY 2011 budget.
Though the Senate passed the budget bill, Senators thought the budget was “incomplete.” To restore some of the budget cuts to education and human services, they tacked on a $430 million amendment to the FY 2012 capital construction reauthorization that had already passed in the House. The capital construction reauthorization would allow the state to continue funding construction projects such as roads, bridges, and university infrastructure.
However, the House voted to non-concur on the $430 million amendment to the capital construction reauthorization and sent it back to the Senate. The Senate adjourned without taking final action, which means funding for capital construction projects will dry up at the end of the FY 2011 fiscal year, June 30, unless the General Assembly reconvenes to pass the bill.
Lawmakers did approve and send to the Governor’s desk an extension of the state’s lapse period, the time the state has after the close of the fiscal year to continue paying off bills from that fiscal year. The House maintains the extension allows the Governor to continue appropriating funding for construction projects over the next six months. The Governor’s office, however, has a different opinion. They contend that while the lapse period bill allows the state until Dec. 31 to pay contractors on existing FY 2011 construction projects, they have no authority to spend additional dollars after June 30, the start of FY2012. The Governor said he will begin the process of shutting down construction projects on Friday. According to the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, a full shutdown will cost 31,000 jobs.
This issue puts the FY 2012 budget that sits on the Governor’s desk in limbo. Gov. Quinn, like the Senate, said that budget is “unfinished,” and most likely wants the $430 million in spending for education and human services (though reports are that number has whittled down to $280 million) to be approved by the House. Thus, both the FY 2012 budget and construction reauthorization remain uncertain. Quinn said he would work with legislators on both matters and most likely will return to Springfield in summer legislative sessions.
This situation highlights the importance of reliable federal funding to keep construction projects moving forward. With the full Illinois Jobs Now! state capital program in judicial limbo and even the state’s capital reauthorization uncertain, a multi-year federal transportation program is important to keep badly needed construction dollars flowing to the region. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning identified $80 billion in transportation infrastructure needs in Chicagoland through 2040. The top five priorities alone cost $10.5 billion and include critically needed investments such as the Elgin-O’Hare Western Bypass and the Chicago Transit Authority Red Line extension.
Bipartisan leaders in the U.S. Senate are moving forward on a multi-year bill that could be introduced this week. MPC submitted testimony to U.S. Rep. John Mica (R- Fla.), new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, supporting an approach to the federal bill that is strategic, reduces gridlock and the demand for costly transportation expenditures, makes existing transportation infrastructure more efficient, creates new financing tools, and demonstrates the value of innovative investments. We will continue to work with Transportation for America, a national collation to advocate for a new federal transportation investment strategy, through the summer.