By CARL GREEN
Alton, IL – Two Labor-supporting state legislators from southern Illinois are being honored for their leadership on a constitutional amendment that should result in substantial new road projects.
The Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association has given its Friend of the Industry Award to Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) and Representative Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg).
The legislation, called the Safe Roads Amendment, in November was put before voters, who overwhelmingly approved it. Haine and Phelps also were re-elected at that time.
The amendment prevents revenues from the state’s road fund from being used for purposes unrelated to transportation, creating a “lockbox” for transportation funds and preventing governors from “sweeping” road funds for other uses.
The Friend of the Industry Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Association. It is awarded to individuals whose dedication and accomplishments reflect the professionalism and commitment of the transportation design and construction industry.
“I am very honored to receive this award,” said Haine. “This measure has always been about ensuring Illinois has the means to keep its infrastructure functional for years to come.
“When Illinois has a solid infrastructure, our economy is able to grow, and that is what Illinois needs right now – growth,” he added. “When we invest these funds into keeping our roads functional, we create jobs employing people who have contracts with the state.”
$6 BILLION TAKEN
The Association reports that over the past decade, $6 billion has been taken from road funds, resulting in budgets insufficient to keep Illinois roads repaired and the state’s infrastructure up to date.
“Our highways, roads and bridges are in constant need of repair and Illinoisans know it,” said Phelps. “This amendment is a win-win, and will provide many good paying jobs for hardworking southern Illinoisans who will keep our roads in good shape for the families who use them.”
Association President Mike Sturino said the legislators’ leadership extended beyond the legislative chambers.
“Senator Haine and Representative Phelps were not only the chief sponsors of the legislation that allowed the Safe Roads Amendment to get on the ballot, but they took it a step further and publicly advocated for the measure,” he said.
Phelps was chief co-sponsor in the House on the bill in 2015 and became chief sponsor when it was revived in April, 2016. It was passed by both houses in May and went on to the November election for voter approval.
Co-sponsors included Jerry Costello II of Red Bud, Jay Hoffman of Swansea, John Bradley of Marion and Dan Beiser of Alton, all Labor-supporting Democrats. Area Republicans who came on board included Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon, Avery Bourne of Litchfield and Charlie Meier of Highland.
Haine was chief sponsor in the Senate, and co-sponsors from the region included Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Gary Forby (D-Benton) plus Republicans Sam McCann of Carlinville, Kyle McCarter of Lebanon and Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville.