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Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008 01:40 am

Moving violation?

Despite lawsuit, Blagojevich administration will proceed with Harrisburg move

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is a uniter. In fact, his plan to move the Illinois Department of Transportation's traffic-safety division to Harrisburg brought together an alliance of Republicans and Democrats, as well as labor and business groups. All are united in opposition to the governor's move.

On Monday, Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin, a Democrat, joined Republican legislators state Reps. Rich Brauer and Raymond Poe and state Sen. Larry Bomke, as well as the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, American Federation of State County, and Municipal Employees Council 31, Teamsters Local 916, and Capital Area Association of Realtors as plaintiffs in the case. Blagojevich, IDOT secretary Milt Sees, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, and Comptroller Dan Hynes are named as defendants.

According to the suit, filed in Sangamon County Circuit Court, the plaintiffs are seeking to block the transfer, claiming that necessary paperwork to approve and certify title has not been filed with the attorney general and secretary of state's offices. In addition, there are "substantial issues" concerning the state's purchase of real estate in a flood zone, proposed use of motor fuel tax funds to buy the property, and IDOT's failure to look for property in a central business or historic district, all of which, the suit claims, violate state law.

Spokespeople for Blagojevich and Sees have said they are confident the law is on their side and plan to go ahead with the relocation after Sept. 11. Neither Hynes nor Giannoulias' offices are commenting

IDOT plans to purchase and remodel the Southeastern Illinois College Foundation in Harrisburg for $815,000 and spend another $750,000 in renovations. The bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability unanimously rejected Blagojevich's proposal less than two weeks after a hearing on the matter took place in late July.

Leasing the division's current operations center in the IDOT Annex, at 3215 Executive Park Dr., costs Illinois taxpayers $1.7 million per year. Blagojevich has repeatedly said that the move is designed to stimulate the economy of Saline County and southeastern Illinois.

"We are paying too much money in the IDOT annex and southern Illinois does need help," says division of traffic safety employee John Paris. But of moving jobs to Harrisburg, he adds: "This is wrong. This does not help southern Illinois."

Nor does it help Springfield. The realtor association estimates a $21 million hit to the local economy in lost real estate investment, future sales, lost property tax revenue and lost rental income.

Davlin, who quipped that he's "glad to finally be a plaintiff in a lawsuit and not a defendant," says the debacle demonstrates the need for the legislature to pass a capital bill. He says: "If we talked about the hundreds of thousands of jobs that would be created, we wouldn't be talking about 140 jobs to help southern Illinois."

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com

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