Government Affairs

The Price of Gas – A Government Affairs Brief

January 25, 2016

Have you noticed the price of gas lately? Not the fact that it is below $2 a gallon, but it is way below! A few weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Christine Radogno was asked about Illinois’ willingness to match the federal dollars expected to flow to the state as a result of the new transportation bill (aka FAST). She was all for that.

But how?

Will gas prices go any lower?

Well take a look around. The price has dropped so much in just the past couple of weeks, I am doubtful that the folks in Iowa who started paying an additional 10¢ a gallon in 2015 are hardly noticing. Our neighbors on the other side of Lake Michigan got together in Lansing and passed a 15¢ a gallon increase in their state gas tax. They expect to raise $1.5B a year on that. The Michigan increase is phased in over 3 years.  The second phase went into effect January 1st as reported in the Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/07/01/legislature-will-negotiate-differences-house-senate-roads-plans/29563761/ .

There’s no free lunch here. Someone will end up paying the tax man whether it is you at the pump or on your UPS delivery fuel surcharge for that hot item on Amazon you just had to get. Either way the tax man always gets his due. That my friends the pols are now calling euphemistically as “pay as you go”.

Infrastructure as a Political Hot Potato – A Government Affairs Brief

January 20, 2016

While watching my Iowa Hawkeyes take on the Michigan Wolverines in a round-ball challenge the other day we were assaulted by an onslaught of political ads. What we had expected to see at the timeout breaks was a batch of seed corn ads. Who doesn’t like to see what Pioneer Seeds has planned for this year’s crops? It’s a real suspense thriller.

Well these 15 second and 30 second video blasts were sharper than a ginsu knife on its first use. Ouch! I am not quite sure what the candidates were for, but we know who they don’t like.

So what are the campaign issues? Well we won’t get into that here. What we didn’t hear in those ads was a discussion on the value of infrastructure and how much are we as a county willing to invest in it.

What is funny about all of this is how infrastructure has become a political football (oops, we’ve changes sports) when it is convenient to the pols. Think about it. There was this incident a year or so ago with some lanes on toll bridge leading into a major eastern U.S. city being closed that was supposable used as punishment against a local community for not supporting the right politician. Is there a module in TrafficSim to model this?

Here more recently, we can see what is going on in Flint, Michigan and the problems with their water supply. The pols are beginning to pile on to this issue. I am sure those Wolverine fans have heard a bucket full about this.

Still don’t think infrastructure is a political hot potato tossed here and there. Then check out the article on the on-going struggle to build a long overdue replacement bridge between Detroit and Canada. The Canadians got so fed up with our politics they even agreed to financially back the entire $4 billion project so the U.S. and the State of Michigan wouldn’t have to pay for anything! Here is a link to this article: http://www.canadianbusiness.com/economy/4-billion-detroit-windsor-bridge/

Is a Capital Bill Possible in Illinois in 2016? – A Government Affairs Brief

January 11, 2016

On this cold January Chicago day, Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno was asked by APWA member John Mick at a recent City Club of Chicago reception what is the possibility of the legislature passing a capital bill? Many ears in the audience perked up to hear her response. This was exactly the question asked of the Minority Leader in April 2015 when members of APWA visited her in Springfield, including this author. Her answer then was wait until the budget is passed. Well we all know the status of that issue…that task is not quite completed.

So what did the Minority Leader say? Well she said yes. But maybe more importantly is what she didn’t say. This time she didn’t say passage of that bill is dependent on a budget being passed. Now maybe she meant to add that to her response but chose not to add that in. Or maybe she knows something else is going on.


One clue might be the response to another question also asked from a civil engineer in the audience. In that one she was asked if Illinois would find a way to match the federal dollars the state is expected to receive from the new multi-year transportation bill known as FAST? She confidently said yes, the state would not let federal dollars slip away.

Ok, so something might be in the works. What and when is the question. More on transportation funding in a later post.

President Signs 10-Week Spending Bill

October 1, 2015

Once again Congress and the President came together at the last minute with a spending stopgap continuing resolution to keep the government funded. The President signed the bill late in the day on the 30th of September, the last day before the new federal fiscal year was to begin. It is expected that this bill keeps the government funded until early December 2015.

What’s next?

Likely a battle on the debt ceiling expected to be debated around the first of the year with a good chance of another continuing resolution in mid-December to extend again the funding of the federal government. Also the House Republicans will need to select a new leader who with the Republican’s majority in the House will become the Speaker of the House, the 3rd in line to the presidency. He or perhaps she will likely shape the discussion on budget issues as we head into the heart of the 2016 presidential campaign. What does this mean to the public infrastructure in America? Likely this continues to kick the can down the road about the difficult discussions needed to keep our infrastructure functioning at a level appropriate for the world’s largest economy.

By the way, have you taken a look at the current Canadian elections for their Prime Minister? Infrastructure funding is a key election issue. Yes, you read that right. Their national politicians are talking roads, water resources, and internet accessibility. The spectrum in Canadian politics leans from left, center and right. Each of these candidates have an opinion and this is an issue for the Canadian electorate to weigh in on as they decide who they cast their vote for.

Meanwhile back in the states all we can say is “Buckle your seatbelts, this government funding issue expects to be a bumpy ride”.

Court Rules Against Illiana

June 17, 2015

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a U.S. District Court judge ruled yesterday against the Illiana Tollway. The road is proposed to be constructed as part of a public private partnership that connects Interstate 65 in Indiana with Interstate 57 in Illinois. In his ruling, Federal Judge Jorge Alonso noted that the Federay Highway Administration's 2013 endorsement of the bi-state project was "arbitrary and capricious", and in violation of U.S. environmental law, according to the decision handed down by the judge. Alonso indicated that the purpose and need statement analysis was faulty. The decision noted that "market-driven forecasts developed by the consultants were used...instead of policy-based forecasts that are developed by professional planners like CMAP".

Illinois Governor Rauner had previously put the project on hold as part of the his fiscal management of the state. It is unknown if the ruling will be appealed. IDOT and INDOT can also decide to revise the environmental impact statement and request FHWA's re-review and issue a new "Record of Decision". 

 

President Signs Short Term Highway Funding Bill

June 1, 2015

President Obama signed a two-month extension of a highway funding bill into law. The Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, extends several aspects of infrastructure funding through the end of July.  Included in the funding extension is highway aid and transit programs under the Highway Trust Fund, as well as freeing up monies in the fund and allowing tax revenues to be deposited in the fund. This was the 33rd temporary fix for road project funding since 2008. 

Legislative Drive Down to Springfield

April 15, 2015

Looking to show your support for public infrastructure? Why not Join APWA as they team up with ASCE and the Transportation for Illinois on April 28th and April 29th in their annual trip to Springfield. The schedule includes a reception the evening of the 28th. On Wednesday, members of APWA will be driving down to Springfield. Those interested in going to the event on Wednesday are encouraged to contact Joel Koenig at jkoenig@cmtengr.com or 312.855.2540. Wednesday includes a breakfast reception, meetings with legislatures and a noon luncheon with IDOT Acting Secretary Blankenhorn. An afternoon reception is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. To register (free) and for more information, please sign up at Sign up online athttps://www.123signup.com/register?id=yhvzt

 

Governor Rauner Signs Budget Fix

March 26, 2015

Illinois lawmakers gave final approval March 26th to a plan to plug a $1.6 billion hole in the current state budget. The Governor signed the measure that afternoon. The plan gives Governor Rauner the authority to take $1.3 billion from special state funds and use it to plug a  shortfall in the current budget. The remainder comes from 2.25 percent cuts to most state programs.

The plan ensures that state prisons will not run short of money this year to pay guards and that court reporters will be paid allowing them to stay on the job. The plan will provide enough money to the state subsidized day care program for the poor to see it through the end of the fiscal year June 30th.

The Illinois Department of Transportation submitted a letter to the General Assembly saying that using the money would not jeopardize any current projects. Some legislators believe the letter was just intended to give cover to lawmakers to support the plan. The question is with these cuts to the transportation budget, will the legislators take up the call for a public works/capital funding bill in the upcoming legislative session?

Proposed Legislation - Tap On Fee Restrictions

March 27, 2015

SB1815 is schedule for Committee review and will likely to be heard next week.  It would apply to all agencies, irrespective of home rule.  More detailed information follows. 
Click hear to file a digital witness slip in opposition of SB 1815.Below is a paragraph on the bill.  Please file a witness slip and pass this along whoever you think will be interested.
 
SB 1815 (Senator McCarter, R-Lebanon) would greatly restrict the amount municipalities could charge for connecting to their water and sewer systems.  In addition, the bill contains language restricting the water and sewer rates that can be charged outside the jurisdiction of the municipality.  The bill also pre-empts home rule.  The result of this legislation is that, if municipalities are forced to decrease the connection fees, water and sewer will have to be raised.  In addition, this legislation would make it difficult to formulate recapture agreements with developers because of the restrictions within the legislation.  The Illinois Municipal League has worked with Senator McCarter to try to come to an agreement that would prevent local governments from abusing the powers granting the ability to charge tap-on fees and still maintain local control for those municipalities that establish fair and reasonable tap-on fees.  Although there was some agreement, a full agreement could not be reached.  IML OPPOSES.?

 

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