After months of patching their budget, crews ready to patch roads

Six months into the Illinois budget battle, it appears there may finally be a way forward.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner met with Democratic leaders Tuesday in Chicago to negotiate. This comes one day after a bipartisan deal approved billions in funding for local governments.

After six months of waiting for funding, Williamson County Highway Engineer Greg Smothers says it’s almost too good to be true.

"There have been three or four bills that we thought we might have some promise, and it didn’t work out," said Smothers.

However, Smothers says a last minute bipartisan deal will allow many southern Illinois counties to stop patching their budget and start patching roads.

"There are counties that depend on this for 70 percent of their funding and sometimes more,” said Smothers.  “It was just going to cripple them."

In Williamson County alone the state owed more than $700,000 in motor fuel tax, which will allow Smothers to buy road salt and fix broken equipment before the first snow.

"We had put a moratorium on buying equipment,” said Smothers. “We tried to keep a rotation, if you will, and we had to stop and put a hold on that."

As Smothers and many other engineers work to get caught up he says there is only one roadblock standing in their way.

"We’re anxious to get the money in the accounts and start planning," said Smothers.

Planning that can now include a full oil and chip program in Williamson County.

Smothers says for every month the state is behind they plan to release a check every three to seven days, so it will be up to a month and a half before many agencies are fully caught up with their budget.

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