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May 27, 2016 12:00 PM, EDT

Illinois Budget Impasse Still Holding Up Transportation Funding

With the scheduled May 31 end of its 2016 legislative session at hand, Illinois’ budget stalemate that has stretched for almost a year showed no signs of ending.

The state Legislature was planning to work through Memorial Day weekend.

“I don’t think anybody is holding their breath for May 31,” said Matt Hart, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association. “Usually at this point, the wheels have begun to move on the budget. Right now, our wheels have stopped, and I would venture to say that some of our legislative leaders are driving in reverse as far as getting a budget done.”

The impasse began when Republican Bruce Rauner became governor in 2015, ending a 12-year Democratic stranglehold on that office. However, Democrats still have super majorities (three-fifths) in each legislative chamber.

“There is a huge battle going on between the governor and [Speaker Michael Madigan] over the budget,” Hart said. “The governor’s not willing to budge on some things and neither is the Speaker. We’re waiting to see if anyone’s willing to give and see if we can get a budget done. When we reiterated our support for robust road funding last week with all four caucuses, the response from all of them was, ‘We’ve got to pass a budget first.’ So transportation is on hold.”

Meanwhile, Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankehorn announced May 26 that the administration wants to spend $11.2 billion on roads and bridges through 2022, a $2.8 billion increase over last year’s plan.

“Our latest multiyear highway program is more promising than a year ago, but we still have our work cut out for us,” Blankenhorn said in a statement. “Revenue projections for transportation do not meet the needs of the state, and the condition of our system will continue to deteriorate.”

And construction projects remain on hold. Illinois hasn’t raised its fuel taxes since 1991, and it’s unclear whether the state will continue to have the authority to spend the money being collected through fuel taxes after July 1.

“Illinois’ current tax structure doesn’t pay for all the commitments that lawmakers have been obligating over the last 10 to 15 years,” Hart said. “During the 12 years under [Democratic Govs. Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn], billions of dollars from the road fund were going to [other needs] so we haven’t been properly funding our roads for well over a decade.”