STATE’S MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR CONSTRUCTION PLANS NEED SAFEGUARD AGAINST POLITICS

Government reform advocates on Monday said the multi-billion dollar construction program about to be debated in Springfield has made the need for limitations on pay-to-play contracting opportunities even more obvious and more important.

“When the Senate returns to Springfield on Monday to take care of its unfinished business from the spring session, House Bill 1 should be at top of its list of things to do,” said Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “The Senate should act swiftly to pass HB 1 and prohibit large state contractors from contributing to the campaign committees of the officeholder awarding the contract.”

The House approved HB 1 by a vote of 116 to 0 on April 25, but the Senate leadership has not allowed it to be debated in the Senate.

“This state government’s reputation as a cultivator of corruption is well deserved, and Illinoisans have good reason to question the likelihood that a multi-billion dollar construction road and transit program will be run on the up and up,” Canary said. “There is serious talk of spending an extra $5 billion per year for each of the next five years and – unless there is a change in law –some contractors will likely feel pressured to contribute to the Governor’s campaign committee and that is not how the people’s business should be conducted.”

The governor’s closest ally in the General Assembly is Senate President Emil Jones, and Jones is responsible for blocking the progress of HB 1. For more than four months, Jones has refused to allow the Senate to vote on HB 1.

Despite Jones’ public claim that he’d like more comprehensive reform, the Senate has failed to produce alternate legislation. Sponsored by 46 of 59 Senate members, HB 1, if called for a vote would pass out of the Senate and go to the Governor’s desk for signature immediately.

“With barely a whimper of protest from his followers in the Senate Democratic Caucus, Senate President Emil Jones has stood in the way of this government reform bill by refusing to assign it to committee,” Canary said. “It’s time he stopped carrying water for Gov. Blagojevich and instead give taxpayers some hope that their money might be spent without regard to political fundraising.”