Brian's Column 04-23-2015

Red Light Camera Ban
On Wednesday of this past week, the Illinois House passed a bill banning red light cameras in non-home rule communities. The bill would prevent these communities from using traffic cameras after January 1, 2017. It now awaits a vote in the Senate.

While the bill is a much-needed one, it doesn’t address red light camera programs in big cities, like Chicago where $500 million in revenue has been generated from $100 tickets since 2003. The cameras do little to provide extra safety in busy intersections but do plenty to line the pocketbooks of larger municipalities that have introduced such programs. One judge in the Chicago area admits to overturning most of the red light camera tickets that come before him because the tickets were issued when yellow lights did not last 3 seconds, the legally required minimum.

Illinois Roads
If you’ve checked your mailboxes recently, you may have seen a mailer from a group representing the road builders’ union that makes some pretty ridiculous accusations against the legislators with the courage to tackle the fiscal crisis. The charged rhetoric and misleading information in the mailer is meant to stir an emotional response yet ignores key facts.

Recently, the Illinois General Assembly and the Governor worked together to craft a budget package to fill the $1.6 billion deficit we faced in FY15. The bill protected prisons, daycares, and services for the mentally ill that were in jeopardy from lack of funding as well as providing  for critical categorical school funding.

The $1.6 billion deficit was a result of an out-of-balance budget passed without any Republican support in May 2014 for FY15. The budget deliberately created a crisis that was meant to be “corrected” with an income tax increase if Governor Quinn was re-elected. He wasn’t, however, and Governor Rauner took his place. The 99th General Assembly was not called in to a special session to raise taxes, and Governor Rauner was left with the looming budget deficit. He worked with other government leaders to correct the budget in a manner that would not take any more hard-earned money from Illinois residents.  

$350 million (not the $400 million as stated in the mailer) was reallocated from IDOT to partially fill the $1.6 billion deficit. Yes, it is being used for other purposes than roads—it’s being used helping meet payroll for prison workers, allowing working class parents to continue being able to provide childcare for their children, and providing necessary services to our State’s most vulnerable citizens. However, the reallotment of funds will not affect funding for FY16 road construction or put IDOT operations in jeopardy. The Appropriations-Public Safety committee, on which I sit, will work to ensure IDOT has the funds needed to continue to maintain Illinois roads to help our State’s residents stay safe.

Additionally, the Illinois Road fund with revenue from motor fuel taxes, vehicle registrations, drivers’ license fees, and the federal government today sits on a balance of over $1 billion, the highest in state history.

I am concerned, as are you, with the infrastructure of our roads and bridges, and please know that I am committed to rebuilding them as funds allow. However, to achieve our goal of rebuilding Illinois, we need to first deal with the immediate need to turnaround Illinois finances.

Don Allen Holbrook, an economist and author, writes that “tomorrow's outcome for our nation is dependent upon how we act today to create the outcomes we desire for our country. Individual accountability is each of our responsibilities if we want to rebuild, renew and restore. . . . Each of us is either part of the problem or the solution.” My colleagues and I, who recently voted for the budget bill, are working to be part of the solution to rebuild Illinois.

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or email us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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