Bomke: 'Governor's word cannot be trusted'

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[August 02, 2008]  SPRINGFIELD -- Following a hearing on Thursday, state Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, believes it's unlikely a special legislative panel will endorse Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's plans to move state jobs from Springfield. The commission has until Sept. 11 to present a recommendation to the governor.

"It was very clear to me at the hearing that the Illinois Department of Transportation didn't do its homework on this issue. Committee members had to see that there was no financial justification for the move and no benefit to the agency or the state," Bomke said. "Plus, I think panel members got a chance to see firsthand how devastating this would be for local families. It is an all-around bad decision for our state, and I think that came through at the hearing.

"If commission members look at the facts and cast their votes objectively, I don't see how they can endorse this," Bomke added. "Of course, I don't know what kind of pressure the governor's office will put on the Democrat members of the panel, and unfortunately, this has always been about political payoffs and not about sound public policy."

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Bomke joined a bipartisan group of state lawmakers at the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability's state facility closure hearing Thursday night. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the proposed move of 140 IDOT Division of Traffic Safety jobs to Harrisburg, in southeastern Illinois.

Milton Sees, secretary of IDOT, was present to tout the benefits of moving the jobs, claiming that it will save Illinois taxpayers money, in addition to bringing a boost to the downstate economy. However, under questioning from members of the panel, Sees could not explain why existing space -- including space at IDOT's main building in Springfield -- could not be used to house the traffic safety employees.

Sees repeated a promise from the governor that employees who choose not to move would be offered other jobs, but he provided no details on how that job offer might work. Lawmakers questioned how the state could find up to 140 new jobs for employees at the same time that massive budget cuts are being implemented.

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Bomke was skeptical of the governor's pledge, remarking that this isn't the first time the governor has made promises that he later failed to honor.

"Our governor has proven, time and time again, that his word cannot be trusted," Bomke said.

Others at the hearing questioned the value of the property being purchased by the state and pointed to photos showing the facility surrounded by water following heavy rains. Despite the photos, Sees claimed the building did not flood.

The overflow crowd for the hearing prompted the state to set up two giant-screen televisions in the Capitol rotunda and first-floor hallway. Although some of those attending were from the Harrisburg area, the majority of those listening were opponents, including a large contingent of state employees.

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"Our governor is using our citizens' source of livelihood as a pawn in this distasteful political payback game of his, choosing to hand out political favors instead of making responsible decisions that could truly benefit economically depressed areas of our state. This could only be the beginning. We have to join together and stand up to this kind of behavior from the governor," exclaimed Bomke.

Bomke and others have also raised concerns that the job move could have a negative impact on the department itself. Thirteen employees from the Department of Traffic Safety have already transferred to other state positions. If the governor does honor his pledge to offer new jobs to Springfield employees, more of the experienced traffic safety personnel may choose to remain in Springfield, which would mean a significant loss of experienced employees with institutional memory vital to ensuring the success of the department.

[Text from file sent on behalf of Sen. Larry Bomke by Illinois Senate Republican staff]

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