Members of the Illinois General Assembly hurried back to Springfield earlier this week as the state’s fiscal year closes on June 30, trying to craft some sort of stop-gap deal to fund key programs.
In a move designed to place pressure on the Democratic-controlled Illinois House and Senate, Gov. Bruce Rauner directed the Illinois Department of Transportation to alert municipalities and counties across the state that if there was no spending authority in place by June 30, all state-run road improvement projects would be halted.
Hundreds of workers would be thrown out of work and hundreds of millions of dollars in road projects – from small municipal resurfacing projects to major interstate highway rebuilds – would be halted indefinitely.
In a statement issued by IDOT last week, legislators were urged to pass Rauner’s proposed stop-gap funding bill, which was introduced to the legislature in late May but never considered before the legislature adjourned.
“We have started to inform our industry partners that all of our projects in both construction and engineering phases will be shutting down starting June 30 due to the majority party in the legislature’s failure to pass a balanced budget,” IDOT officials said in a statement emailed to the Landmark on June 22. “The conversation about how individual projects will wind down is continuing.
“The stopgap proposal is a fiscally responsible solution proposed by the Republican leaders that can be voted on today. There will be no interruption in our projects and programs if the General Assembly returns to Springfield and passes HB 6585/SB 3435.”
Since that time, Rauner has tried to whip up support for the stop-gap bill and succeeded in getting dozens of Illinois mayors to urge passage of his plan, which Democrats have panned, because it does not fund some social services and does not provide enough state funding for public education, particularly for Chicago Public Schools.
Democrats since last week have come up with their own plan for stop-gap funding, which includes more funding for public education, including Chicago schools, but Rauner has consistently said he won’t give in on what he considers a “bailout” for CPS.
Legislators were due back in Springfield on Tuesday and reportedly were shooting for a Wednesday vote on a funding plan.
In the meantime, local officials said they could not believe the state would simply force contractors to walk away from road projects, leaving them sitting for months until a deal could be reached.
“It’s hard for me to imagine our legislators can let this happen,” said Riverside President Ben Sells.
The shutdown would affect projects that have already started in both Riverside and Brookfield.
Workers are already roughly halfway through a major project to remake the streetscape along East Burlington Street in downtown Riverside. Officials hoped to get the brick paver sidewalks completely laid on the south side of East Burlington Street and Longcommon Road before a shutdown might happen.
Much of the concrete work required on the north side of the street was also complete by early this week, but not all of it could be completed by June 30, Sells said.
Edward Bailey, the Riverside director of public works, said that if a shutdown lingers, it could also postpone resurfacing of East Quincy Street from Harlem Avenue to Riverside Road and the entire length of Longcommon Road.
Both of those projects were scheduled to start later this summer. A majority of the funds paying for those projects come from grants administered by IDOT.
In Brookfield, a work stoppage would affect the resurfacing project under way on Shields Avenue between Maple and Eberly. Village Engineer Derek Treichel said that workers are about 60 percent of the way through that project, which was slated to be complete in late July.
Treichel said all of the underground work is complete and that crews ought to have all of the curbs, gutters, driveway aprons and sidewalks completely poured by June 30.
However, pavement patching and laying asphalt over the existing concrete street still remains to be done and would be delayed by any shutdown.
“I’d be irritated beyond belief if I lived there,” said Village Manager Keith Sbiral of the residents near the Shields Avenue project.
The shutdown would not affect road improvement projects funded by local sources. Brookfield’s planned improvements to streets on the village’s south end later this summer, which will be funded through the proceeds of a bond sale approved by voters this spring, are still moving forward as planned.