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Lawmakers get closer to state budget

May 31, 2008 8:50:12 AM PDT
As lawmakers in Springfield move closer to a state budget deal, the governor and others are urging them to not lose sight of a capital construction program. They want lawmakers to approve a $31 billion construction program by Saturday's state budget deadline.The legislators say they believe they have reached a tentative agreement. The question is, will their numbers add up or is this numerical smoke and mirrors? There is already concern that the proposed budget will not contain enough money. So, there is chance there will be a lot of cuts and yelling down the road. In the mean time, there has been a lot of 'rock 'em and sock 'em' on other numbers.

It has been four years since the last dollars were spent on the state's last capital program. So, there is enormous need and pressure now to come up with money for roads, bridges and schools.

Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been trying to sell the legislators on the governor's $31 billion plan. Here's where the money would come from:

- A new land-based casino in Chicago, run by the city

- Another new riverboat license, giving the 12 casinos

- More slot machines on the boats and at horse racing tracks.

Under the plan, the state lottery would be leased, which, in theory, would bring in $10 million. The state would maintain a 20 percent ownership in the lottery.

" I think this has gone to another level, after some of the negotiations that went on last night. But, I'm not sure. I want to the just review the bill and have an idea of what's truly in it," said Senate Republican leader Frank Watson.

Legislative leaders Friday afternoon got a look at how the money would be spent. They say they need to do some studying.

When asked if there was any chance the capital program would come up Friday night or Saturday, Senate President Emil Jones said, "There's a possibility. We're working on it."

Apart from the bill itself, some legislators say broken trust stands in the way of a 'yes' vote.

"We have a significant level of distrust for what Governor Blagojevich will do if we put $30 billion in his hands to spend," said Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie.

"We can and will legislate away a lot issues in the next day and a half of session. You can't legislate trust," said Chicago Rep. John Fritchey.

The 'trust' talk, the governor says, is typical political rhetoric. He also says House and Senate Republicans, along with Senate Democrats, are prepared to support the capital plan.

"If that kind of support is built, I think it's pretty clear these sort of issues are really excuses rather than things we should be concerned about," the governor said.

The question is, will the bill be called in the House? The speaker, Mike Madigan, is opposed to its ingredients. So, its fate is uncertain.


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