If you ask, most area residents’ opinion will not be favorable of the 98th Illinois General Assembly’s activities. Months of wrangling have done next to nothing to resolve the public employee pension system’s fiscal sinkhole.
Things have gotten so bad that the governor stopped the legislators (and his own) salaries in an attempt to force some action. The only visible result of withholding paychecks was, predictably, a lawsuit against the state from the legislative leaders.
This is not to say that the legislature and the governor are not able to reach agreement and pass new laws. Accomplishments included Naperville receiving funding to construct a new regional drop-off recycling center. A state budget (unbalanced of course) was passed and, depending on who is interpreting the law, interstate highway speed limits may or may not rise to 70 mph as a result of legislation passed in the 98th.
DuPage County fared well, too. Springfield authorized the Elgin-O’Hare Western Access highway project and approved the initiative to streamline the steps needed for possible elimination of redundant or outdated local government units. On Aug. 14, the last day for which this action could be taken, Gov. Quinn quietly signed into law HB 1522, enabling legislation for DuPage County’s proposed stormwater management utility.
Despite opposition from the city of Naperville, DuPage County Forest Preserve District, Will County, Naperville Development Partnership, Republican state senators representing DuPage, and other groups and individuals, this item on the County Board’s legislative wish list is now a reality. What it will do, pending future action of the County Board, is allow DuPage to establish and fund a new bureaucracy devoted to stormwater.
None of the proposed tasks for this utility are new. The only difference is instead of funding from real estate taxes, every property owner in the county would receive a bill, not tax deductible, computed based on the square footage of their land. Yet to be defined credits may be granted to those properties that have undertaken “green” infrastructure initiatives (again undefined) or steps to manage stormwater run-off. These breaks are theoretical right now and might result from horse trading during consultations with municipalities.
Of course, none of this is a done deal. The county reported in a recent newsletter that “prior to any deliberation on funding methods, the county will consider funding needs for stormwater management activities. In addition to basic operating costs, this assessment will include routine maintenance and capital repairs for flood control facilities; flood mitigation and water-quality projects identified in watershed plans; and regulatory services and floodplain mapping needs.”
So, DuPage will first build a project wish list of where money can be spent. Next, figure out when and how to collect the money to make these projects happen. Then, with state approval already in hand, a County Board vote will be taken to move forward. Politicians, public money, and a long list of projects … I will be surprised if two years from now the stormwater utility will not be sending out invoices.
Bob Fischer is president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.