Celebrate a little, but now comes the really icky part

By Gus Bode

Eight years, two governors and countless campaign promises later, Illinois finally has a Capital Construction Plan.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the capital plan sent to him by the Legislature in May, which will distribute, he says, roughly $31 billion to various state construction projects. The list of beneficiaries includes Morris Library to complete sixth and seventh floor renovations and the Automotive and Aviation schools to construct a new building at Southern Illinois Airport.

The capital plan is the first of its kind in eight years and was a hot-button issue for lawmakers who could not agree on an appropriate revenue source. Multiple sales tax increases and a gambling expansion were part of the capital plan signed Monday.


Illinois has been through a rough patch within the last year. Its elected officials have been arrested and indicted, journalists from across the nation filled Springfield and Chicago hotel rooms to cover the arrest and impeachment of a governor and now the Legislature and new governor cannot agree on how to pass a budget.

News of the capital plan’s passage is a sigh of relief, even if only for a moment.

Be happy for David NewMeyer and Jack Greer, who have been waiting year after year for money to construct the $56 million Transportation Education Center. Thank Rep. Mike Bost and Sen. Dave Luechtefeld for voting in favor of the capital plan. Save a handshake for SIU President Glenn Poshard and Dave Gross, SIU’s government liaison, for making sure the university’s projects were not excluded from the list.

But realize these people are not off the hook yet. While the ink dries on the capital plan, these advocates should be gearing up to keep these projects on track.

Unfortunately the capital plan did not include an ‘inflator,’ which would make the state liable for rising construction costs. The university learned the hard way, through the Morris Library renovation project, that state dollars received for a construction project might not be enough to finish the job. And going back to the table for more money usually comes with a multi-year waiting period.

Not to mention these projects mean there will be more state facilities requiring maintenance in the future, and we all know how great Illinois is at keeping its properties in shape.

The capital plan’s passage also makes a fully funded operations budget even more important. Because the state is relying on gambling to finance these projects, lawmakers should feel responsible for making sure the appropriate gambling addiction services are in place and can service those who need them.


Those programs are on the brink of serious cuts, if not elimination, as legislators continue their debate on how to distribute the state’s shrinking general fund.

By passing a capital plan that relies on expanded gambling, lawmakers showed everyone they have the ability to put controversial legislation on the governor’s desk. They should use that ability on the budget even if it means setting aside their ‘firm beliefs’ on raising taxes.

Legislators, thanks for the capital plan. Now get back to work.

Lorimor is a junior studying journalism and political science.