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State Supreme Court Upholds Capital Construction Program

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Illinois State Capitol

Illinois State Capitol buillding in Springfield (AP Photo)

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Updated 07/11/11 – 11:04 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld legislation that created a $31 billion statewide infrastructure construction plan.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports, the ruling is a major victory for Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois lawmakers, who had predicted that the construction program would create hundreds of thousands of jobs over a span of six years.

The high court rejected arguments from opponents who argued that lawmakers improperly combined several separate issues in one piece of legislation, violating the state constitution’s “single subject” requirement for legislation.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Alex Degman reports

LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

The capital construction program was being challenged by liquor distributor and Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz.

The program raises $31 billion for new public works projects by hiking taxes on liquor, soft drinks and candy, increasing driver’s license and license plate fees, and through legalized video poker.

Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan praised the court’s ruling on Monday, saying the capital program “puts Illinois solidly at the forefront in the country in job creation and infrastructure investment.”

“As we climb out of the worst economic slide since the Great Depression, Illinois has made an investment that will, most assuredly, create a climate of economic renewal well into the future,” Carrigan added. “Thousands of Illinoisans are working on projects that make our state a better place to live and work. This decision keeps those projects moving and people on the job.”

The state already has borrowed around $4 billion against the new revenues for construction projects, and it has been collecting the taxes and fees for nearly two years. A ruling against the law would have forced the state to issue expensive refunds of those taxes and fees, at a time when billions of dollars in bills are already going unpaid.

In January, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled unanimously that the Capital Projects violated the state constitution’s “single subject rule.” The legislation violated the rule that a bill appropriating funds must be confined to one subject, and that public funds must only be used for public purposes, the court ruled.

Separately in March, state Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) took steps to gut the controversial 2009 state law that legalized video gambling machines in bars and restaurants. As it is, Chicago forbids video gambling machines in the city, and 80 local governments have opted out entirely.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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