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KC Phase II in state capital bill

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

All that’s needed for the construction of the second phase of the Kaskaskia College Vandalia Campus is one signature.

That one signature will also help to bring the four-lane expansion of U.S. Route 51 closer to Vandalia.

But that one signature may be a little hard to get.

The Illinois General Assembly has approved a new capital construction bill, and it now sits on the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn.

The problem is that Quinn has told legislators that he’s not willing to sign the capital bill until state legislators get on board with his proposed budget.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) said on Friday evening that the capital bill includes $5.6 million for the construction of a second building at the Kaskaskia College Vandalia Campus.

Also in that bill is an additional $20 million for the four-lane expansion of U.S. Route 51, McCarter said.

“I found out Sunday that it (the KC project) had been line itemed in (the capital bill),” McCarter said. “When I found out, I was one happy guy. I took it to the (legislative) leadership, and they agreed to support it.

“It helps to be a new senator, and it helps to follow someone like Frank Watson,” he said.

In fact, Vandalia Mayor Rick Gottman said, Watson was continuing to work with his successor behind the scenes, explaining that he was faxing information about the KC project to both men in the recent past.

“Frank and I got together and talked about some of the programs that he had been pushing for some time, and this was one of them,” McCarter said. “This is a great thing.”

Kaskaskia College President Dr. James Underwood said college officials are anxiously watching the capital bill and budget movements in Springfield.

“We’re patiently waiting for the legislative leadership and the governor to come to terms on a budget,” Underwood said.

“We’re pleased that there is a line item for the college, instead of this being in with the community college monies,” he said. “That’s promising.

“We were always on the community college list (for state funds for the Vandalia Campus). Now, for the first time, we’ve got the project on the appropriations list,” he said.

“What we don’t know is what the state requirements will be, as far as such things as a match,” Underwood said.

The college applied for state assistance when planning to build a KC Vandalia Campus, with the original plan calling for local funds to match the state grant.

As local funds were being raised for the project, the college broke the campus project into two phases. The college was able to complete the first phase of that project when nearly $3 million of local monies were used in conjunction with $4.5 million from the college.

The college plans to include in the second phase of the campus project facilities that could be used for general, vocational and technical instruction.

McCarter and Watson also talked about the new senator continuing to push for more Route 51 monies. That push netted considerable more funds for Route 51 construction.

McCarter said the funds included in the new capital bill are enough to expand the highway to four-lanes to the Shelby County line south of Pana.

That construction will include bypasses around Assumption and Pana.

McCarter is “hopeful” that Quinn will give sign off on the capital bill in the near future. A new budget is another story.

Quinn is pushing for an income tax hike, “but he can’t get that passed,” McCarter said.

“It passed in the Senate, but the House wouldn’t even run it,” he said.

Under Senate Bill 174, McCarter said, “Thirty-nine products were going to be taxed, everything from dry cleaning to hair cuts. That would mean an additional $300 to $500 per family.

“We need to hold out for some real reform,” he said. “You just can’t dump irresponsible spending on the people.

“There is a lot of jockeying going on (in Springfield),” he said. “I’ll do everything I can to be a part of the solution.”

Quinn and the legislative leaders were scheduled to hold another meeting to discuss budget issues on Tuesday afternoon.