Most board members of Tollway Authority ousted
A bill removing members of the Illinois Tollway board was passed on Wednesday after a short debate on the House floor on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 1298 (SB1298) also requires the governor to fill the vacancies on the board by Feb. 28.
Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) said the problems with Illinois Tollway are well documented and the bill would provide for a fresh start and clean state by ending the terms of all officials from the board except for the governor and the secretary of the Department of Transportation.
Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R-Crystal Lake) was critical of the bill because it did not address what he considers the underlying problem: the tollways.
"Tolls were supposed to go away," Skillicorn said. "I think we owe Illinois a promise on that."
Skillicorn argued that Illinois has some of the most excessive tolls in the nation.
"If you want my vote on this, let’s actually fix the Tollway and work toward removing the tolls altogether," Skillicorn said. "Amend it and take down the tolls."
Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) was also critical of the bill, calling it a political maneuver.
"I have been very outspoken about the tollway," Ives said. "I am just as disgusted about nepotism and about hiring teams outside of the agency. I’ve commented on this in public. It makes me mad. But what you’re talking about with this bill is nothing but a craven political agency being put in place."
Ives argued that the bill does little because five of the board members are already ending their terms on May 1.
"Nothing is going to get done between now and May 1 on the Tollway that is going to be that impactful," Ives said. "This is only being done for political purposes. This is a political bill."
Mitchell shot back and argued the bill was not a political bill.
"This is not about new kids on the block," Mitchell said. "This is not political. We want to make sure this Tollway Authority will operate in the best interest of the public."
The Daily-Herald reported in September that six Republicans hired on the Tollway board over the last two years with a collective pay of more than $900,000.
Illinois is currently dealing with a proposed gas tax hike that could cause residents to pay as much as $200 more per year in gas. The proposed hike would add somewhere between 20 and 30 cents per gallon.
Illinois already has the 10th highest gas tax in the nation and with the proposed hike would take the top spot in the nation, according to Illinois Policy Institute.
SB1298 passed the House with 100 yes votes and 6 no votes. It passed the Senate with 50 yes votes and 2 no votes.