Blagojevich scales back construction plan

July 31, 2008 4:03:14 PM PDT
Governor Blagojevich has unveiled a new, scaled-down plan to revitalize the state's roads, bridges, classrooms and communities. The revamped capital plan shaves billions of dollars off a statewide construction program. But not everyone likes the new approach. The original plan counted on billions of dollars of revenue from gambling revenue. Additional gaming was not well received by some, so Thursday, the governor took the possibility of new casinos off the table. Now the attention turns to the lottery. But some remain concerned about the governor and the speaker of the house coming to any compromise.

Legislative leaders filed into the governor's office Thursday morning. It would be another attempt to pass a major infrastructure bill. Present were all leaders of the state legislature with the exception of the House Speaker Michael Madigan. Madigan's press secretary says Madigan considers meetings with the governor to be unproductive.

"We have a governing coalition that includes every legislative leader, except for one. Mr. Madigan has chosen yet again to miss another meeting. He sends minions who admittedly say they have no authority to negotiate or make any decisions," said Blagojevich.

"Clearly, not having all four of the leaders there makes it difficult to determine where everybody is. But I think at least three of the four officers seem open to this," said State Rep. Tom Cross, (R) Plainfield.

At stake is a capital bill roads, bridges and schools creating nearly a half-million jobs to Illinois. In the eight months of negotiating the bill, Governor Blagojevich offered what he says is a compromise: reducing the bill to $25 billion, eliminating funding from casinos and offering partial lease of the state lottery to fund the projects instead.

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert helped formulate the plan.

"The revenue sources available at this time are the...leasing of the lottery...and to reserve part of that lottery there for education," Hastert said.

Some are holding out on support, saying they'd like to see the governor include the ethics reform included in any new plan.

"Sign the ethics bill on his desk, the one that says we will no longer do pay for play in the State of Illinois," said State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, (D) Chicago.

"The governor agreed that if we do a capital bill, he will sign that bill. That will be part of any agreement that comes out of here. To me, that was some progress that was made, because we are concerned. Our concern is about the ethics of what's going on," said IL Sen. Frank Watson (R), 51st District.

The governor says he would support the ethics bill, if that's what it takes to get the capital bill passed. There was no discussion of a timeline, but there is concern that the capital bill needs to be passed this fiscal year in order to qualify for some federal money.

Some other options discussed: Rep. Currie suggested increasing income tax to create more revenue. The governor suggested bringing Mayor Daley into the discussion. There is some speculation how well those two are communicating after the governor was critical of the city's violence.


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