One giant baby step forward towards WIU campus funding
Scott Reeder, Springfield reporter for the Dispatch/Argus and receipient of a blistering tirade from Sen. Mike Jacobs for reporting his "Rosa Parks Moment", reports a bit of hopeful news. While this may be one baby step towards a WIU riverfront campus for Moline, it's one giant leap towards raising expectations.
Western Illinois University appears to be on the brink of receiving $13.8 million to fully fund the first phase of construction for its Moline riverfront campus, a jubilant state Sen. Mike Jacobs said Tuesday.What to make of this? Once more, one can safely ignore Sen. Jacobs hyperbole. We've heard that all before and will likely hear it again.
"What makes this significant is that this is the first time we have ever seen anything in black and white that says that campus will be built," Sen. Jacobs said. "This is enormous news for the Quad-Cities. It will attract people to our region. It will provide our young people with a reason to stay. It's all about growth. If we aren't growing, all of our efforts are little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."
The Illinois State Board of Education approved a list of funding priorities -- including the money for WIU -- in a meeting Tuesday. Those priorities will be forwarded to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, as he and his staff hammer out a budget proposal to present to lawmakers next week.
"About a week ago, the governor's office told me not to sweat this -- it's a done deal," Sen. Jacobs said.
But at least publicly, the governor's office is singing a different tune.
"This is just a proposal right now. The governor has expressed support for this project in the past. But this proposal is contingent on the legislature passing a capital budget this year," said Andrew Ross, a spokesman for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The legislature has not passed a capital budget for the past two years. And whether one will pass this year is questionable.
"The important thing is that it is finally in the budget as a priority," Sen. Jacobs said. "This is something we have wanted for years."
The governor's budget office declined Tuesday to publicly disclose specific line items in the budget before the governor's Feb. 15 budget address.
But the facts seem to show that what Jacobs is touting as a reason for rejoicing is that the State Board of Education included the project in a list of funding priorities. Should we start planning a parade?
That's good news. I'm glad to hear it. It's something.
The way I read it, the "list of funding priorities" will now go on to the Governor for consideration. (And Jacobs actually takes Blago at his word when he tells him it's a "done deal"? Is he new?)
Meanwhile, at the top of the heap, the Governor's office is saying it's only a proposal at the moment, though the Governor has expressed support for it in the past.
But the entire thing hinges on whether the legislature can pass a capitol budget, something which it's not been able to get done for the past two years, and whether it will do so this year is "questionable."
Man... I'm not sure I'd be breaking out the hats and hooters just yet. I think it's more of a cross your fingers type of deal.
But in contrast to prior instances where this issue has popped up along with huge promises and fanfare, at least this time Jacobs can report truthfully that the project actually exists somewhere on paper. The project is on the one yard line, but at least now it's actually in the game. I'm not sure I'd characterize this as "enormous news", but it's positive news at least.
Let's hope that Jacobs apparent tactic of shaming the Governor into sticking to his word by loudly touting the plan as well as the Governor's committment to it at every turn doesn't backfire and the funding makes it's way through the rest of the long, difficult process.
Then we'll all get happy and Jacobs can crow until his tonsils turn inside out.
P.S. Jacobs notes, as mentioned in a two line paragraph near the bottom, that Reps. Boland and Vershoore "were key players in shepherding the new campus to fruition."
NOTE: As noticed at "The Passing Parade", candidate Paul Rumler has a statement on the WIU expansion on his site.