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A Hold Steady State Budget for Western Illinois

State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) and State Representative Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) feel the region won’t be helped or hurt by the state spending plan that begins July 1, 2014.

“What we tried to do with the budget under really difficult situations was try to not cut any really vital programs any more than we had to. Basically trying to hold everybody level to last year’s funding numbers,” said Sullivan.

He said that includes education, Medicare, and DCFS programs.

Hammond also said the budget will provide level funding. But she feels the budget is not balanced because it relies on interfund borrowing.

“We’re sweeping $650 million from other state funds,” said Hammond.

“They are not specified in the budget so essentially they can come from anywhere.  That’s $650 million that’s going to have to be paid back.”

She’s also concerned about the number of people retiring from universities. She said the schools might struggle to find quality replacements given the overall fiscal condition of the state.

Credit Rich Egger
John Sullivan

In separate interviews with Tri States Public Radio, Sullivan and Hammond both said they had yet to hear from Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner on how he would deal with the state’s financial challenges.

Sullivan thinks the Democratic-controlled legislature might use the fall veto session to vote on extending the income tax increase if Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is reelected.  But he doubts the measure will come up if Rauner is elected.

Hammond said there were no significant agriculture-related bills this year, and the Department of Agriculture budget appears to be unchanged.  However, she said no money was provided to the department for implementing the state’s new medical marijuana law.

Hammond believes the state has come up with rules to properly regulate the industry. She said Illinois has a tendency to overregulate, “And in the case of medical marijuana I don’t think that’s a bad idea.”

Credit Rich Egger
Norine Hammond

Interview with Norine Hammond

Hammond said she did not vote in favor of the original medical marijuana bill, but she did vote in favor of a bill this year to allow the use of cannabis oil to treat children with epilepsy.

“I think that if we can do something for children, (something) that has been proven and it works, I think that’s significant,” Hammond said.

She said she heard testimony about the positive impact of cannabis oil during a Human Services Committee meeting this year.

Toward the end of the legislative session, lawmakers approved a $1.1 billion capital bill. Sullivan said it provides money only for shovel-ready road and bridge projects.  One of the biggest projects in his district is the Macomb bypass.

“There will be funding in the capital bill to complete the structures of all four lanes on the Macomb bypass. So all the bridge structures and overpasses,” Sullivan said.

“And then also the money to actually lay the concrete asphalt for two lanes of traffic. So it will open the bypass. It won’t be four lanes. It’s enough to do the two lanes plus the structures for all four lanes.”

When asked whether he’s concerned that the state might not complete the other two lanes -- leaving Macomb with a two lane bypass instead of four lanes -- Sullivan said he is confident the work will get done.  He emphasized the bridge and overpass structures will be built to accommodate four lanes, and he feels the region will put enough pressure on the state to ensure the other two lanes also get completed.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.