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Safe Roads Amendment backing pays off

By Greg Hinz,

There’s some heartwarming news today on the Illinois Safe Roads Amendment, the ill-considered yet popular plan to ensure all state and local taxes on transportation go for transportation and not other things, such as treating the sick, feeding the hungry or educating the kids.

The proposed constitutional amendment overwhelmingly was approved by voters on Nov. 8, despite warnings that it largely was the work of road builders and their labor allies.

Now comes word the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association last night handed out a special “Friend of the Industry Award” to two folks who, in the association’s view, have achieved “truly outstanding achievement.”

About that amendment:

The big winners: state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, and state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Norris City, both of whom just happen to be the chief legislative sponsors of the amendment—in other words, the guys most responsible for getting it on the ballot.

“The road building industry has not had a higher priority,” said association President David Rock. The two honorees “were not only the chief sponsor of the legislation . . . but they took it a step further and publicly advocated for the measure during the campaign.”

Now comes the heartwarming part.

Though I’m sure there was absolutely no connection—this is Illinois, after all—both men have received a flood of campaign donations from road-construction interests this election year.

Haine, for instance, just got $5,000 from the Chicago Land Operators Joint Labor Management PAC, which is affiliated with the International Operating Engineers Union, a big amendment backer. The same group also donated $5,000 to his campaign fund as the legislative session began in January—part of $20,000 Haine got from such groups this year.

And maybe he’ll get more thanks next year, when some of those new construction jobs begin.

Meanwhile Phelps, who faced a tougher re-election battle, received at least $175,000 this year from labor groups in the construction industry. For example, $58,900 from the Laborers Union, $50K from the carpenters and $59,900 from the Pipe Trades. House Speaker Michael Madigan surely had something to do with that. But sponsoring the Safe Roads Amendment likely didn’t hurt any.

Isn’t it reassuring that we all live in a state where people remember their friends? I challenge you to top that this holiday season.

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