Local leaders tell state lawmakers fixing infrastructure, budget should be top priorities in 2015

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CHAMPAIGN--A new year means new needs from the state, and local leaders in Champaign County are telling legislators that funding is at the top of their list for 2015.

“It's just adapting to the times, serving the people, serving our constituents and making things as best they can be,” said Champaign mayor, Don Gerard.

Officials from across Champaign County met with state lawmakers Wednesday to make their local interests known to those working at the state capitol. City leaders highlighted individual issues ranging from how to pay for 911 services to whether hospitals should qualify for charity tax cuts. But a lot of the conversation was about how to get the Illinois Department of Transportation to fund more road construction countywide.

“For far too long Illinois has fallen behind in making sure its roads and bridges are in the proper repair,” said Representative Chad Hays, R-Danville. “They are years behind in terms of the updating of infrastructure.”

Addressing the state's pension problem also made the agenda.

“Obviously it has not gone away by kicking the can down the road and it's not going to go away by doing more of the same,” said Hays. “I think that you're going to have a very interesting spring session that is largely going to be focused on the budget and everybody in this room today, local officials are going to be watching very closely, as they should.”

Lobbyists warned legislators against attempting to pay off that statewide problem with money reserved for local governments. And with an advisor to Governor Bruce Rauner seated at the table, those surrounding him emphasized the need for more local jobs.

“One thing you heard over and over again is how this small issue might affect our prospects for bringing in employers,” said Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign. “So that's going to be something that's going to take work and cooperation from all different units of government.”
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