Monday, June 23, 2014

Quad-City lawmakers: Quinn will sign bill including air service boost

Quad-City area lawmakers said Monday that they are convinced Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will sign legislation providing a state subsidy for air service between the Quad-Cities and Washington, D.C.

Quinn was in Moline on Saturday, when he signed a bill to make it easier for local governments to borrow money for the purchase of firefighting vehicles. But the air service language, which is part of a budget bill, still awaits his signature. Area lawmakers, though, say it's just a matter of time.

"The governor will be back to sign the bill," Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said Monday.

Reps. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, and Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, both said they also are confident the governor will sign the legislation.

A spokesman for the governor was noncommittal.

"The governor’s reviewing that and other budget bills and is expected to act before the fiscal year ends," Dave Blanchette said.

The Illinois fiscal year ends June 30.

There had been some indications Quinn might sign the bill into law while here Saturday, but that did not happen. The bill to expand borrowing for firefighting vehicles allows local governments to get low- and no-interest loans for up to $350,000 through a state program. The cap previously was set at $250,000.

As for air service, getting a flight from the Quad-City International Airport to Washington, D.C., has been a priority of area leaders for years.

Area leaders have said they are working with an airline but have not identified it. But one lawmaker indicated that landing an airline is a good possibility.

"As of right now, we have an airline that has expressed an extreme amount of interest," Smiddy said.

The legislation awaiting Quinn's signature would allow a $1.5 million annual subsidy over three years.

The subsidy would come through the I-FLY program. In 2007, the program paid for a subsidized flight linking Marion, Decatur and Quincy, Ill., with Midway Airport in Chicago. But service by Mesa Airlines for those downstate communities lasted only six months.

Springfield also had subsidized service to Washington, D.C., but it ended when the subsidy expired.

Area lawmakers say they hope that, after three years, a Quad-Cities-to-Washington, D.C., flight would be self-sustaining.

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