Quinn signs first state capital bill in 10 years

July 13, 2009 3:23:07 PM PDT
Governor Quinn signed a bill to create jobs through the building of roads, bridges and schools in Illinois Monday. Much of the money to pay for the plan comes from expanding gambling in Illinois through the legalization of video poker in bars and restaurants.

Monday's bill signing came just hours before Quinn traveled to Springfield to meet with top Illinois lawmakers about ironing out a temporary budget to keep the state running.

The plan for new construction and jobs comes with a $31 billion price tag.

During the first week of this month, as he made no progress in solving the state's $9 billion budget deficit, his critics all but left governor Pat Quinn for dead. They called him ineffective and a flip-flopper.

Monday, however, his latest flip-flop, to sign the jobs bill without an operating budget in place, has made Quinn the hero among his fellow politicians and recession-weary construction workers.

"If you're able bodied and you're breathing, we want you working in the Land of Lincoln. That's what we believe in," Governor Pat Quinn said.

Pat Quinn called Monday the best day he's had since he's been governor. He signed the state's first capital bill in 10 years, authorizing enough spending on roads, bridges, schools, parks and other public works projects to create an estimated 439,000 jobs between now and 2014.

"The best social program is a J.O.B., a job. That's what we believe in, we want people to work," Quinn said.

Political and labor leaders compared the Illinois stimulus package, as they called it, to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

"We've been waiting 10 years for this. The one man that brought it along is Governor Pat Quinn, let's give him a round of applause," Mayor Richard Daley said.

However, none of the politicians and labor leaders made any mention of up to 45,000 video poker machines soon to be legalized and licensed to generate over 25% of the money needed to finance the capital plan.

"What we're doing now is regulating and taxing something that's already occurring," Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said.

"I'm not a sponsor of that part and don't really support that part, but right now we're strapped for cash and get money where we can," Senator Rickey Hendon said.

"Video Poker's been called the crack cocaine of gambling, and yet we're using it to build roads and bridges and schools in Illinois. It is a gamble that is not worth taking without public hearings," Andy Shaw, of the Better Government Association said.

Governor Quinn--himself a longtime gambling opponent--is going along with the expansion of gambling in bars and restaurant to generate dollars to create jobs.

"The biggest challenge we have in our State and our country right now is to reduce unemployment," Quinn said.

Immediately after his news conference, the governor flew back to Springfield to meet with legislative leaders on the still unresolved operating budget and the $9 billion deficit. Quinn now says he favors a temporary spending plan over an immediate increase in the state income tax.

Lawmakers will have to decide something Tuesday because paychecks are due to state workers on Wednesday.


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