Senate Hearing in Edwardsville Hears of the Need for a Capital Bill to Rebuild, Repair Renew

Edwardsville — Senators hear from university and college Presidents, and others, on the need to pass a Capital bill. In testimony, administrators with the SIU University System, discuss the need for renovations to existing buildings, and for some newer buildings, in the context of there being NO Capital bill for the last 10 years.

Lewis and Clark President Dale Chapman, shared how one of his buildings was built in the 1890s, and just maintaining existing buildings is a constant economic concern.

In a previous hearing at the State Capitol, senators heard from Transportation Department witnesses, that across the state, there are roads, bridges and requests to fund repairs and new construction, that would be paid for by a Capital bill, where Billions of dollars are raised from the Bond Market, and the state pays those bonds off over years.

The interest rates on bonds are still near record lows, and some argue that now is the time to borrow, as interest rates may increase in years to come and then cost the state more in interest payment

As a general statement, the university leaders argued that after ten years of there being no Capital Bill, and with the recent past of there being no state budget for two of the four years of the Rauner Administration, they’ve cut back in many areas, deferred maintenance, and now their ability to offer a competitive educational experience is under constant threat.

Co-Chair of the committee hearing, Sen Martin Sandoval (D) of Cicero, continued his questioning of witnesses, to determine the extent of minority hiring within the universities — asking administrators if they knew the percentage Blacks make up of the Illinois population(11%), of Hispanics (17%), and to what extent the universities made a sincere effort to hire minorities in positions of authority.

The university administrators, as well as leaders in construction unions that testified, each said they make an effort to hire minorities.  The union leaders however noted that there is a lack of people going into the trade unions in general, and a severe lack of minority applicants. 

Sen Sandoval said there was a law passed to ensure minority representation, and perhaps no university should get state funding if they are shown to be lax in hiring minorities. 

The Senate hearing is part of a larger effort to showcase the need for passing a multi-billion dollar bond issue to fund the needed infrastructure projects, and to hear what are the regional needs around the state.

There were no opponents to a Capital Bill testifying at the hearing.