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Legislative battle over tax extension likely in fall session

    Even knowing the drumbeat that exists among constituents for construction-related jobs, state Sen. Kyle McCarter said he couldn’t bring himself to support the $1.1 billion capital spending bill that passed in the legislature at the close of the spring session.
    His conservative nature couldn’t see the wisdom.
    “If you can’t pay your light bill, you don’t build a two-car garage,” he said. “We have $6 billion in past due bills.”
    The Lebanon Republican, who represents the 54th Senate District, said the state is heading to further problems by financing much of its newly passed, $34.5 billion budget by borrowing and putting off payments. And, he’s rock solid sure — as are most observers — there will be renewed attempts after the November election to resurrect the idea of extending the temporary, 67 percent state tax increase, which was passed in 2011 and expires at year’s end. Gov. Pat Quinn has called for such an extension, but the votes weren’t available to get the measure through the chambers in the spring.
    That may have been a temporary victory for taxpayers, McCarter said. The fall veto session may give lame duck legislators a chance to extend taxes without worrying about voter repercussion.
    “The lame-duck period is when lawmakers who planned to retire at the end of this year or who lose a re-election will essentially be free to vote for more and higher taxes with no accountability. That’s the scenario that played out in January of 2011 with the 67 percent state income tax hike,” McCarter said.
    He said there are about four competitive races in the Senate and “more than that in play” in the House. The shift in balance could provide the headcount necessary to pass the taxes, he said.
    The current makeup of the Democratic majority in the Senate, he notes critically, already “has no problem raising taxes.”
    Should they not extend the temporary hike in taxes, lawmakers will be left to find other revenues or cut more than $4 billion in programs and services.
    The newly passed budget is built upon tax revenues that will not be coming into state government after Jan. 1 because the Democrats’ 2011 income tax hike is scheduled to begin rolling back on Dec. 31 of this year, McCarter said.
    McCarter said he was part of a group of legislators who formulated a budget three years ago that if approved would have left the state with a surplus today. Instead, he said, the 67 percent temporary state income tax was approved, which has been exceptionally hard on business and individuals — and negated any incentive to keep the budget balanced.
    The budget is flat but it allows the governor to sweep some $650 million from other funds to pay for needs, rather than cut “waste, fraud and abuse,” McCarter said. One example he cites of waste is the $40 million to $60 million that he says is being paid in overtime to employees of the Department of Corrections. Hiring personnel would be cheaper, he said.
    The budget has grown by about $1 billion a year in the past five years, he said. Rather than be proactive, legislators keep kowtowing to special interests.
    “Living within your means is not a popular thing,” he said. But every time there is the potential to cut the budget there is a chorus of screams regarding the devastation about job and program losses. That has not been borne out, he said
    “Now, they have passed a somewhat flat budget and nothing devastating has happened,” he said. “The Dems in charge make Chicken Little look like a poorly trained motivational speaker.”
    A capital spending bill has long been sought by labor and construction groups.
    Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider has said it would fund “shovel-ready” road and bridge projects across the state starting this summer.
    “I am very excited about this,” she told the Illinois Business Journal. “Some $100 million will go to local road agencies through motor fuel taxes, no strings attached.” Otherwise the remaining $1 billion will be split up among projects throughout the state with “two-thirds of them to be let this calendar year,” she said.
    An exceptionally harsh winter damaged roads and bridges across the state. Members of both parties said projects funded by the capital program would create jobs and improve driving conditions throughout Illinois.
    Capital projects will be paid for by money that’s still coming in from a prior capital plan and then by paying back the loan with revenue from retired bonds. The program was one of the few extravagances in the overall budget.
    “With an election in the next six months, it’s probably wise not to be overaggressive,” state Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat, told the Associated Press, adding that neither side was “happy” with the passed budget. “I feel like we’ve done what we need to do. Now we need to go home and see who the next governor is going to be.”
    The governor’s race pits incumbent Democrat Quinn against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, who has called for deeper spending cuts. All 118 House seats are up for re-election, as are a third of the Senate seats.
Several area projects contained in new capital bill
By The Illinois Business Journal
    SPRINGFIELD — Some $49.6 million in projects is slated for Illinois Department of Transportation District 8 in the newly approved capital spending bill.
IDOT lists:
    – 0.71 miles of resurfacing of Main Street and related sidewalks in Staunton from east of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks to old U.S. 66, $500,000.
    –  A new bridge deck on Interstate 55 under Illinois Route 4 in Madison County, $3 million.
    – 6.03 miles of resurfacing and widening of Illinois Route 3 from 0.1 miles north of Grafton  Hills Drive to Illinois Route 109, $8.8 million.
    –  Utility adjustment in Grafton, related to above, $5 million.
    – Resurfacing of 5.5 miles of Illinois Route 157/163 in Alorton from 0.1 mile south of Paris Avenue in Cahokia to Interstate 255 in Alorton, $3.3 million.
– Resurfacing and patching of 3.86 miles of two sections of Illinois Route 159, from 0.1 miles north of Fountains Parkway to 0.1 miles south of Salem Place in Fairview Heights, and from Market Place to 0.1 miles north of Rosewood Village Drive in Swansea, $3.6 million.
IBJ Business News

Smith joins team at Ittner Architects

    ST. LOUIS — Ittner Architects, Inc., with offices in Fairview Heights and St. Louis, has added Kerry Smith to its staff.
    Smith will be handling relationship development. She is a resident of Edwardsville.

Attorneys join Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C.

    ST. LOUIS – Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. has added two attorneys to its litigation practice group. Gino Gusmano and Shannon Summers joined as associates.
    Gusmano, who will counsel clients on a variety of business matters and serves Greensfelder’s data breach, privacy/security practice group. Summers focuses on product liability, mass toxic tort and asbestos litigation.

Oates Associates adds new architect and junior engineer

    COLLINSVILLE — Oates Associates, a civil and structural engineering/architectural design firm, has added Stan Hampton, AIA, as an architect, and Brandon Ratermann as a junior engineer.
    Hampton, of Florissant, Mo., has more than 25 years of experience designing facilities for federal, educational and commercial clients. Ratermann, of Aviston, Ill., earned his bachelor of science in civil engineering from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and worked as a construction intern with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

HeplerBroom partner honored by IDC

    Jeff Hebrank, partner with HeplerBroom LLC, has received the 2014 Distinguished Member Award from Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel.
    The award is given to a member who has demonstrated years of commitment to advancing the association’s goals.
    He is a past president and 10-year board member with the association, whose mission is to promote civil justice with the highest of ethical standards.


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