Deputy Governor: WIU project funding chances slim to none
Jacobs: "I'm not at all dissapointed."
Absent a miracle, the Illinois Quad Cities can forget about any funding for the WIU riverfront campus anytime soon.
At least that's the grim assessment by Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk in a comprehensive piece by Scott Reeder and Stephanie Sievers, Small Newspaper Group's team in Springfield.
The piece details the process involved and why the project Sen. Jacobs has hung his (size 12?) hat on has a very tough road ahead if it's to appear in the Governor's '07 budget.
Jacobs had assured us in recent news reports that the governor's office had told him "not to sweat it", as the funding for the project was a "done deal". Could be the Senator got punked.
The Governor is expected to put in an appearance at the Moline Airport sometime before noon on Monday. This will be a prime chance for the press, legislators, and other leaders involved to press him on the fate of the WIU project funds as well as other issues. Sen. Jacobs might want to ask whether the Gov was jiving him about the "done deal" thing or if it's time to start sweating yet.
It looks like legislators now have a real chance to show their stuff, though against long odds.
They're going to have to grind it out in budget negotiations with Republicans, people who'd rather french kiss Michael Moore than give the governor anything to boast about during his re-election campaign. Luckily, Jacobs has assured us this is one of his strong suits. (working across the aisle, that is, not... oh nevermind.)
And they'll have to tackle the difficult chore of actually finding a source of revenue to pay for it in a severely cash-strapped state, an equally daunting task.
But as with anything to do with the legislature, until the gavel bangs to adjourn the session on April 7th, nothing is set in stone. Judging from all the noises made on this project thus far, I think it might be wise to not put too much stock in anything said by politicians on the matter until early April.
SPRINGFIELD -– Creating a Western Illinois University Moline riverfront campus may be a priority for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but the likelihood of getting another $13.8 million in funding this year faces mounting odds.It may not be time to give up all hope as yet, miracles do happen. But repeated messages from the Governor's office have been pretty plain that the WIU project isn't exactly on their front burner.
Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk said both chambers of the Illinois Legislature would first have to pass a capital budget by a three-fifths majority, something that requires bipartisan support and which hasn’t happened in the last three years.
Even if that were to happen, Tusk said the state also would have to come up with a way of generating more revenue for new buildings on college campuses across the state.
Tusk said the Blagojevich administration has not proposed a specific funding source for campus constructions because they didn’t want Republicans to "just shoot it down."
So Tusk said the governor is deferring to lawmakers to develop a source of funds for the campus improvements. Short of those two things happening, Tusk said the $13.8 million in funding that Jacobs – and many other community leaders -- had hoped for will not be a reality.
Sen. Mike Jacobs said today he would continue to push hard during the remaining two months of the legislative session to acquire funding for a WIU riverfront campus.
He added he is no way deterred by Tusk’s comments.
"We already have $2.4 million in the budget for planning the campus. A few months ago, no one was even talking about more funding for the Western budget, now they are. If it’s not in this year’s budget it will be in next year’s. I’m not at all disappointed."
But last week, after the Illinois Board of Higher Education recommended that the governor spend another $13.8 million on the WIU project, Jacobs told the Dispatch/Argus the "governor’s office told me not to sweat this -- it’s a done deal."
Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, said he expects Blagojevich to dangle “carrots” like the Moline campus and other state projects in front of lawmakers to try to sway them to support his construction plan.
But Republicans may be reluctant to come out in support of a construction budget that could give Blagojevich political traction heading into the election
Last month, Blagojevich announced $2.4 million in Opportunity Returns money to do the planning work needed to renovate the former Deere & Co. Technical Center into the proposed campus’ first building.
WIU spokesman John Maguire said the university is in the process of working with the state to find an architectural firm to draft construction plans that could be put out for construction bids.
Becky Carroll, spokeswoman for Blagojevich’s Office of Management and Budget, said in most capital projects, the planning work must be finished before money is allocated to the actual construction phase.
In the meantime, Blagojevich is expected to make a stop at the airport in Moline Monday during a state fly-around.
Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, and Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan, said they anticipate Blagojevich will officially announce his bid for re-election. Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said the visit does not involve official state business.
But Jacobs gets credit for refusing to get the message. Just like the Cubs, hope springs eternal, there's always next year, no matter who's in office.