Agreement Saves Illinois Construction Projects From Shutdown
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UPDATED 06/17/11 10:31 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The bulldozers and jackhammers will keep moving on Illinois roadways.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, a threat by Gov. Pat Quinn to shut down the summer construction season appears to have been averted. The projects, among them the reconstruction of North and South Wacker Drive, would have come to a halt if lawmakers had not been able to come to an agreement for funding them.
Quinn had set a Friday deadline. Now a deal for funding capital projects has been reached and lawmakers will go back to Springfield Wednesday to vote on it in a special session.
The deal came at the eleventh hour.
“We have reached an agreement. We’re going to go to Springfield on Wednesday. We’re going to be voting to authorize the expenditures for the capital bill starting July 1 for another year,” Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) told WBBM Newsradio 780. “We’re very proud of the fact that we were able to put this bill together.”
Cullerton tells Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts he expects the session Wednesday to go quickly.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Bob Roberts reports
“In one day, we only have three or four bills to vote on, and we’ll be done until the veto session,” Cullerton said.
Working out a deal among Senate Democrats avoids delaying some $18 billion worth of state projects at the height of the construction season. Shutting down the projects would have thrown more than 50,000 people out of work.
Quinn spoke of the massive disruption that would have occurred if lawmakers had failed to come to an agreement before the Friday deadline.
“There are just literally hundreds and hundreds of road projects, as well as building projects – almost every university in our state has a major building being built that would be stopped dead in its tracks if we don’t get this reauthorized,” Quinn said.
The political standoff occurred when Senate Democrats attached unrelated spending to the construction bill that would have bankrolled more than $400 million worth of social service programs.
They had hoped including the money in the construction budget would force house Democrats and Republicans to support the appropriation. It did not, and the General Assembly adjourned without voting on the measure.
Quinn on Thursday spoke of dire consequences agreement weren’t reached.
“All these projects are at stake – 52,000 jobs,” Quinn said. “We’re not going to let those men and women who work on those jobs be sent home – not only without a paycheck, but I got a call today from a union leader and he said they won’t have health insurance if the projects are held up, so this is really important. It’s vital to our economy.”
The authority to pay for construction projects would have expired June 30. Quinn spokeswoman Mica Matsoff said Friday was set as the deadline because if no agreement were reached, the phased shutdown would have had to begin Monday to assure that all necessary safety precautions are taken – especially with the busy July 4 holiday travel period at hand.
Although they worked out a deal on the capital construction project budget, lawmakers were not able to come to complete agreement on an operations budget. While they passed one, they say they will have to make changes and plan to do so in the fall.
Cullerton also says he is confident that he can find the money to boost education and social service spending elsewhere in the budget, since tacking it onto the capital construction plan didn’t work out.