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Illinois GOP Jobs Plan, Business-Labor Road Construction Effort Pushed

(Chicago) – Illinois GOP legislative leaders and a coalition of business and labor groups held separate press conferences on Tuesday to announce various jobs plans.

GOP House and Senate Minority Leaders Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) Tuesday introduced a package of bills “to help jump start Illinois’ economy and create jobs”.

A “key component” of the Durkin-Radogno jobs plan would be to establish “primary causation for workers’ compensation” to lower business costs of Illinois’ employers more for worker injuries.

“Illinois continues to be an outlier,” Radogno said. “If we can reign in our workers’ compensation costs with common sense changes that ensure workers are provided for but bring costs in line with neighboring states – everyone will benefit.”

Other provisions of the Illinois House and Senate Republicans Jobs Plan include:

  • Making the Research and development tax credit permanent.
  • Authorize DCEO to establish 50 new Enterprise Zones.
  • Reduce the cost of setting up an LLC in Illinois from $750 (currently) to $39.
  • Expand the reach of science, technology, engineering, and math education opportunities in Illinois by creating STEM academies within the confines of local schools.

While the GOP leaders were announcing their goals, State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) announced that the Illinois Senate had passed her legislation, Senate Bill 2776, to reduce Illinois’ filing fee for establishing a limited liability company to $39 – one of the Republican priorities.

Meanwhile, an umbrella organization of labor, business and construction groups announced on Tuesday a new legislative push to provide about $1.8 billion a year for “investing in the state’s deteriorating infrastructure and fix thousands” of miles of roads, bridges, rail systems and airports.

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition says $1.8 billion in annual revenue would fund both “pay-as-you-go spending” and a bonding program that would get the state’s roads to 90 percent acceptable condition, 93 percent acceptable condition for bridges and millions of dollars for “long-overdue” transit improvements in the Chicagoland area.

The funding would be split:

  • 80 percent for roads, bridges and airports
  • 20 percent for transit needs – the first ongoing funding for the congested Chicagoland network
  • 60 percent of the road and bridge funding would go to the state’s network, and 40 percent to local roads

The $1.8 billion in revenues would come from these sources:

  • Ensuring all state sales tax revenue from motor fuel goes to transportation needs
  • Ending the ethanol credit for gasoline
  • Increasing the state motor fuel tax on gasoline by 4 cents per gallon
  • Increasing the state motor fuel tax on diesel by 7 cents per gallon
  • Raising motor vehicle registration fees
  • Reprioritizing spending out of road funds that now supports other government services
  • Creating a state sales tax on some driver-related services, such as auto repair and oil changes

A study of Illinois transportation needs by the group found that the state would need to spend between $65 billion and $74 billion over the next five years to get its systems in proper shape.

“What we have proposed today is a comprehensive effort at restructuring how we invest in our transportation systems, to ensure we meet our needs and move our state forward,” said Doug Whitley, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of TFIC. We are encouraged by the positive feedback we have received so far…”

“This is a jobs and economic recovery program, period,” said Mike Kleinik, executive director of the Laborers District Council Chicago and co-chair of TFIC. “If we want a stronger economy, then we need a stronger infrastructure and a plan to pay for it.”

But the coalition plan drew swift and firm opposition from another key business group that claims that the state already endures among the highest gas prices in the country and that the transportation construction proposal to create a new motor fuel taxing formula would cost Illinois drivers an additional $600 million per year.

“Consumers are frustrated and gas stations are suffocating—especially near the borders—due to Illinois already having the highest fuel taxes in the Midwest,” said Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association and the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores.

Fleischli notes that Illinois ranks as the sixth highest gas prices in the country, a condition driven by “having one of the highest existing motor fuel taxes in the nation”.

Fleischli also say that Illinois “has proven to be poor stewards” of its existing motor fuel tax revenue.

State Auditor General William Holland released a report in 2013 detailing how the state spent less than half of its dedicated road fund dollars directly on road construction costs in eight of the last ten fiscal years.

Stay tuned.

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