Schimpf advocates for Southwest Illinois Connector

State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo)

State Sen. Paul Schimpf has a number of goals for the spring session, including introducing legislation to help with job creation in southern Illinois and consolidate state government.

One of his goals coincides with work being done of late by representatives of four southwestern Illinois counties to build a four-lane highway from Murphysboro to Waterloo. With the Senate’s return to session Tuesday, Schimpf went to work on introducing legislation to move forward on this proposal.

“That, to me, is the only proposal I’ve heard as far as spurring economic prosperity,” he said of the project.

The four-lane/four-county highway coalition has met on several occasions recently to discuss the expansion which proponents say would create an easier route from St. Louis to southwestern Illinois cities. During its most recent meeting, the coalition dubbed the idea the “Southwest Illinois Connector.”

Schimpf gave the Republic-Times four reasons for his support of the four-lane highway, including that it would connect to a major university in Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“I think in order to maximize the economic potential of the shooting complex in Sparta, you have to have something like this,” he said for his second reason. 

The Republican from Waterloo also touted it as a benefit to the Kaskaskia Regional Port District, a driving force in the region’s economy. Finally, he said the highway would spur a reduction in fatal accidents with less traffic on Interstate 57.

“That gets a lot of press for the number of accidents taking place there,” he said.

Last week, Schimpf hosted a media tour in different cities in the 58th Senate District, including Waterloo, to present his eight different pieces of legislation he plans to introduce during the spring session. 

Other than the four-lane highway, Schimpf will also advocate for such items as creating tax credits for hiring graduates of the state university system, combining the offices of comptroller and treasurer and eliminating the position of lieutenant governor, and reforming the state pension system to include a buyout proposal for vested, inactive pension holders.

“His Eight for ‘18 agenda touches on job creation, reducing government spending, and keeping promises — priorities he believes will generate support from both sides of the aisle,” according to a press release detailing Schimpf’s legislative priorities.

During the spring session, Schimpf said he believes Senate Bill 444 — a cleanup bill needed to move forward with the new school funding formula signed into law in August — will come up for an override vote since Governor Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto on the bill. 

Schimpf voted “no” on the trailer bill. While the Illinois State Board of Education continues to make calculations under the new formula, schools in Illinois are receiving the same level of funding as under the previous formula.

“It looked like only two schools in my district would be gaining under this proposal,” he said, adding, “I see no reason to change my vote” if it comes up for a veto override.

Rauner was to give his State of the State Address Wednesday, the second day of the spring session.

Read more about the governor’s speech in next week’s Republic-Times.

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