Senator Bill Brady hosts roundtable talks in Lincoln

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[April 18, 2016]  LINCOLN - Illinois Senator for the 44th District, Bill Brady hosted a round-table discussion in Lincoln on Friday morning. Five people representing two Logan County communities were on hand for the meeting. In attendance representing the city of Lincoln were Mayor Marty Neitzel, Treasurer Chuck Conzo, and City Clerk Susah Gehlbach. Representing the village of San Jose were Village Clerk Stacy Coon and Chief of Police Maria Cripi.

Brady opened the day saying that holding the roundtable discussions locally was a means of forcing a conversation between the local government and himself, offering an opportunity for questions to be asked and answered that are of importance to a particular community.

He talked about the budget impasse and the state of the state as far as jobs and industry are concerned. He said the budget problem has gone on too long and chided the state’s House of Representatives for taking a month off when there is so much that needs to be accomplished.

Brady said that Illinois is among the worst of all the states when it comes to jobs and economic growth through industry. He noted that the two largest barriers to growth were property taxes and the cost of worker’s compensation.

He also noted that in state government there is a need for proper redistricting, and there must be an establishment of rules for term limits. He noted that Speaker of the House Mike Madigan is a good example of someone who has been in his political position too long.

Another item holding up progress according to Brady is the state rules of prevailing wage. He said that the prevailing wage is making it difficult for some communities to afford to pay for the work it needs to do. Brady said the control and decision to pay prevailing wage should be given back to local government. The local government would then have the choice of paying or not paying union wages for their contracts. Brady said that in talking with union leaders, they don’t have a problem with making this type of change, but it is Speaker Madigan that will not give in to the suggestion that the state does not need to control this issue.

Brady said that of course as is known, the state of Illinois is doing a very poor job of managing its finances. He noted that the worst township in the state had greater financial responsibility than the state of Illinois. He noted that the state is spending $400,000,000 per month more than it is bringing in.

Brady noted that non-essential services cannot be paid without a budget, and it is impacting several people throughout the state. He noted the devastating effect this is having on the MAP Grant program that is impacting colleges and universities throughout the state. He noted as an example, Chicago State is closing for this school year one month early because of the funding issues.

Lincoln Mayor Marty Neitzel

Fifth Street Road

When Brady asked if anyone in the room had questions for him, Neitzel asked immediately about funding for the Fifth Street Road Project. She explained that the city is $1.4 million short of being able to do the $6 million project. Brady asked a few questions about the project, then asked his chief of staff who was present if the Brady Office had a file on the project, Chief of Staff Alex Henderson confirmed that it does.

Brady said what he does know about is a road project that will be done in conjunction with the High-Speed Rail program that will impact the roadway to the prisons in Logan County.

Lincoln Developmental Center

Neitzel also asked about the Lincoln Developmental Center property. Brady said that the building is being controlled by the state’s Central Management Service, and there needs to be more conversation with that party. He said that he does know that there are a couple of state agencies using buildings at LDC and like being there. When asked, he confirmed that the state is using the newer buildings on the property.

Brady eluded to conversations in the past that included the mayor and City Administrator Clay Johnson. Neitzel confirmed there had been meetings. She also mentioned that Johnson would have attended the round table, but was in another work related meeting downstairs. Brady suggested that Neitzel or Johnson try to get another meeting scheduled within the upcoming week.

He also commented that he would like to see LDC handled in the same manner as the old Sailors home in Bloomington/Normal had been handled. He explained that the city had taken over management of the property and had developed it into a usable part of the city. Between the city and the state, there had been an agreement that if the project lost money, the city and state would share the liability, and on the other hand, if it made money the two entities would share that as well. He suggested that Neitzel and Johnson also contact Bloomington/Normal and speak with city officials about how they succeeded with the Soldier Home project.

San Jose Village Clerk Stacy Coon and Chief of Police Maria Cripi

Police Officer testing

Police Chief Cripi of San Jose mentioned a meeting she had recently attended where she learned there was a basket full of bills in the House that will impact police officers and departments around the state. Brady said he wasn’t familiar with these bills. He explained that the House Bills are held in the House until they are passed, then they are sent to the Senate side. He said then he would have the opportunity to see the items to which Cripi was referring.

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Cripi said that there were several bills that will threaten the careers of police officers and will have an impact on manpower in the police departments. She noted as an example one bill that will require psychological testing of experienced officers, wherein if they fail the test they are immediately fired.

Cripi explained that as a police officer becomes experienced with the real-life situations he can be put in, his perception changes, but that doesn’t mean he has a problem. She’s concerned that the testing will not take that into account as it should. She said young, inexperienced officers don’t see the world in the same perspective as seasoned officers, so their mind doesn’t see the threat that a tenured officer might see. She commented, referring to ink blot testing, that for a seasoned officer “that butterfly becomes a threat.”

Left to right, Lincoln City Clerk Susan Gehlbach, Lincoln City Treasurer Chuck Conzo, and Senator Bill Brady

State’s delinquent sewer bills

Lincoln City Clerk Susan Gehlbach asked about the past due debt that is owed to the city of Lincoln. She told Brady that as of this day, the state owes the city $414,586 in sewer bills for the two prisons. She said a large portion of that was past due money. She wondered if the state would soon be doing anything about this.

Brady said there were two spending bills that could be passed, that if they were passed, the state does have the means to pay. One would address higher education, and the other would address local and social services.

Brady went on to comment that the state is in debt to many, including the city of Springfield. There, the state owes over $10 million to the public utilities, and the city of Springfield has threatened to shut off the power to state buildings in Springfield. Gehlbach commented that the city of Lincoln could do that as well.

Brady went on to say that there are companies that have been buying the state debt for 90-cents on the dollar, and will collect from the state with interest at a later date.

Pension Fund Mandates

Neitzel also commented that she found it a bit ridiculous that the state has set up strict mandates for cities to fund their pension plans fully when the state pension plan is unfunded, and the state is doing nothing about it. Brady agreed and again said that Michael Madigan and his followers were influencing what is happening to state pensions.

Gas or Motor Fuel Taxes

City clerk for San Jose, Stacy Coon brought up the gasoline taxes and said that it is hard for any part of the state to grow in population when Illinois has so much taxation on the gasoline. He said transportation costs are causing people to consider relocation to states with lower gas taxes.

Brady said the gas tax is the motor fuel tax used for infrastructure. He told the group that in his political career, he has never voted for a tax increase of any kind. He went on to say that what does need to happen, is there needs to be a restructuring of the Motor Fuel Tax.

He mentioned that consideration is being given to adopting a mileage tax or a percentage tax. He didn’t go into details about how those taxes would be imposed, particularly the mileage tax, but said there was still much to be worked out there.

Eliminating the Lt. Governor position

The last question to Brady was his opinion on a very recent announcement that the Office of the Lieutenant Governor should be eliminated. He said that he would “dodge that question” by saying that he would first want to see the offices of the State Comptroller and Treasurer combined so as to save money for the state.

Brady said that his concern for doing away with the Lt. Governor position was how that would impact the order of succession. Brady said for example that if today, something were to happen to Governor Rauner, Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti was prepared and well qualified to fill the role. However, if her office did not exist, that task would fall to the Attorney General, currently Lisa Madigan.

He said the experience and qualifications of the attorney general are not the same as the experience and qualifications that make a good governor. Therefore, he wasn’t sure anyone holding the office of attorney general would be equipped to become governor.

He also said that he felt that Evelyn Sanguinetti was a working Lt. Governor. It had been stated in news reports earlier in the day that the position of the Lt. Governor didn’t have many duties or responsibilities. Brady said he didn’t agree; he feels that Governor Rauner has given Sanguinetti specific duties and tasks that she is performing very well.

With this, the formal meeting came to a close. Brady stayed for a while afterward and spoke with individuals personally.

[Nila Smith]

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