Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Is toll road rejection the payback for governor’s refusal to do a budget?

Illinois’ governor has been pushing an idea meant to ease traffic congestion in the Chicago-area portion of Interstate 55, only to have the General Assembly refuse to give it much consideration.
RAUNER: Wants his toll road addition

Yet the project is likely to wither away for financial reasons, since it seems there is a deadline of Saturday for our state’s Legislature to approve a resolution supporting a partnership that would get private business interests involved in financing the project.

THAT, OF COURSE, has Bruce Rauner all worked up, as he held a press conference Monday to rant and rage about the refusal of Democrats to cooperate with him.

Which resulted in the retort by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, that they refuse to take the project seriously because Rauner won’t cough up certain specific details about the project that they would want to know before approving anything.

Which means this project – which may or may not have merits toward easing congestion – is becoming yet another front in the ongoing battle between our state’s governor and our Legislature.

And yet another sign that our state’s governmental structure is incapable of accomplishing anything. Which, at the rate things are going, is a condition going to continue through November 2018.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF which is the election cycle in which someone potentially could be dumped by the electorate from political office. Until then, we’re in for a lot of nothing.
MADIGAN: Not likely to give it to gov

This particular project being touted by Rauner involves building more lanes along the interstate (a.k.a., the Stevenson Expressway) between the Veterans Memorial Tollway (more commonly, the North/South Tollway, I-355) and where it meets up with the Dan Ryan Expressway.

Those new lanes would be operated as toll roads – which means you could use them if you’re willing to pay. Even if you’re not willing to pay, there’s the chance that others will, which would clear up traffic for your cheapskate mindset.

I mockingly refer to those drivers who won’t pay as cheapskates, because I suspect I wouldn’t be willing to pay either. I think many would refuse to use the new lanes.

BUT BUILDING THEM is bound to be a construction perk for somebody – a nice, sizeable contract that could make some people rich.
KENNEDY: Says Rauner needs achievement for prez bid

Which is the concern that Madigan publicly expresses as the reason for the legislative reluctance to do anything with the idea. “Our concern with private investors being involved in a toll lane is that, once again, it seems as though Governor Rauner is more interested in helping his wealthy friends,” he said.

Yes, this project would be financed ($400 million) by these “private investors,” not the Illinois Department of Transportation, which says it couldn’t afford to do this on its own. Because these investors (17 companies located around the world) have set an April 1 deadline for wanting to know if they can count on the state (they want to make sure they get paid, and not put on a list of debtors who might get their money eventually) to cooperate, this issue is coming to a head.

Which means this week is likely to pass, and an opportunity will be lost on Saturday.

I MIGHT FEEL a touch of sympathy for the governor’s stance, if not for the fact that he has been such a hard-head with regards to our state’s budget – a situation causing so many more problems for our state’s operations.
STEVENSON: Would Adlai pay namesake road's toll?

I have no doubt it is the ill-will brought about by the months of non-negotiation that is causing Democratic leadership to dismiss this idea without giving it serious thought.

I also noticed that on Monday, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Kennedy said during a forum by the Cook County Democratic Party he thinks Rauner’s whole motivation for being so stubborn on budgetary issues is that he wants to run for U.S. president someday, and wants to be able to claim as his accomplishment that he “broke” labor unions and pensions in Illinois.

In his mind, Rauner needs to ultimately “win” this budgetary brawl, no matter how many years it takes or what gets caught up in collateral damage – even if that winds up including this road project that might (or might not) have some merit.


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