Governor Bruce Rauner has begun working with lawmakers to implement reforms from his January 27 “State of the State” address, focusing his efforts during the week on improving the way state agencies purchase goods and services.
Also during the week, an economic-development group was created to attract businesses and encourage jobs growth in Illinois, and a new legislative resolution would allow the state’s transportation department to explore adding managed lanes to Interstate 55 to reduce congestion, create jobs and spur economic development.
In other news, media reports indicate that the State Board of Elections is seeking clarification from former State Representatives Frank Mautino about more than $250,000 in campaign funds. Mautino now serves as the state’s Auditor General.
Procurement reform can save Illinois $500 million per year
Governor Rauner teamed with Republican lawmakers from across the state February 2 to call for changes to Illinois’ antiquated and unnecessarily complex procurement system. They say the reforms could save the state $500 million annually, increase flexibility and efficiency, protect and support Illinois businesses, and streamline the procurement reporting structure. They include:
• Allowing state agencies to create a prequalified pool of vendors in different categories of supplies and services.
• Reducing the burdens on universities through exemptions for certain education-related purchases.
• Creating a preference for buying supplies and services from Illinois businesses.
• Allowing the state to “piggyback” on the procurements of other states, governmental entities, and purchasing consortiums to leverage this large buying power, while speeding up the procurement process.
• Allowing state agencies to create a pre-qualified pool of vendors in different categories of supplies and services, speeding up the process by which the state can receive price quotes and proposals.
• Streamlining the annual certification requirements for multi-year contracts, reducing bureaucratic paperwork.
Recently, a number of Republican legislators suggested that savings from procurement reforms could be used to help fund the state’s universities, community colleges and the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants. Due to the ongoing budget impasse, higher education and the MAP grant program have gone unfunded.
Attracting business and creating jobs
Governor Rauner signed an Executive Order February 3 directing the Illinois Department of Commerce to work with the newly-formed Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation (ILBEDC) to attract businesses and investment, and encourage job growth and economic development throughout Illinois.
“ILBEDC will make us more competitive to put Illinois back in the game after years of sitting on the sidelines, idly watching neighboring states and others lure businesses and jobs away from Illinois. This collaboration will field a highly competitive, proactive organization focused strictly on business development and job creation,” Governor Rauner said.
The Department of Commerce will collaborate with ILBEDC to more efficiently pursue economic development through the use of private sector resources and expertise. Private economic development organizations are used in 16 other states, including Indiana and Ohio.
“We’ve lost tens of thousands of jobs and residents to other states in recent years,” said Commerce Department Director Jim Schultz. “The corporation will employ economic development best practices to help reverse these trends and bring businesses back to Illinois, while working with the Department of Commerce to maintain high standards of transparency and accountability.”
IDOT to explore addition of managed lanes to I-55
Allowing the Illinois Department of Transportation to pursue adding managed lanes to Interstate 55 under a private-public partnership will deliver project benefits more quickly and at a reduced cost, according to the Rauner Administration.
The plan seeks to reduce congestion and increase convenience for motorists using an innovative approach. Similar proposals have been used successfully in other states, and could serve as a model for future improvements to Illinois’ extensive transportation infrastructure.
The I-55 managed lanes project would add at least one lane in each direction to a critical travel corridor between Interstate 355 (Veterans Memorial Tollway) and Interstate 90/94 (Dan Ryan Expressway). The 25-mile section accommodates 170,000 vehicles per day, but suffers from long, unreliable travel times, resulting in frustrating commutes for workers and increased costs for the delivery of goods and services.
Options for the additional lanes currently being explored include tolled and un-tolled carpool lanes and express tolling lanes. The state will complete the federal environmental studies later this year to identify the preferred option.
Using a private-public partnership on this project could save taxpayers an estimated $425 million in construction costs. Possible toll revenues from the project and a private-public partnership financing source would be available to pay for construction, operation, and maintenance costs. Construction could start as early as next year and wrap up in 2019.
State Board of Elections wants clarification
A central Illinois newspaper is reporting that the State Board of Elections wants clarification from former State Representative Frank Mautino about $259,000 he paid to a Spring Valley bank since 1999.
A Daily Herald editorial is also calling for some answers.
A news article in The Times, based in Ottawa, states that Mautino “… listed Spring Valley City Bank as the recipient of $259,000 in campaign money, even though the purpose listed in documents for the spending was for everything from food to travel.”
Tom Newman, director of campaign disclosure for the state Board of Elections, says the board is seeking an explanation from the campaign committee that had been headed by Mautino but is no longer active.
The Daily Herald editorial notes that “For the most part, Mautino has not provided answers.” It goes on to say, “In a state with as sordid a reputation as Illinois, the office of auditor general is an important one. It’s one of our few ethical checks on government spending. The auditor general ought to be someone who is independent of state politics. That the position is now occupied by a former lieutenant of the speaker is unsettling enough. These unanswered questions only compound the problem.” A letter has been sent to Auditor General Mautino asking for timely answers to the questions that have been raised. As a member of the Legislative Audit Commission, I was the only member to vote against recommending then-Representative Mautino’s appointment to the Auditor General position. We had interviewed another very highly qualified candidate for the position who I believed should have been recommended as well.