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I-Team Report: My Money Is Where?

June 17, 2010 9:32:29 AM PDT
The I-Team has found billions of state dollars gathering dust, even as Illinois claims to be broke and has one of the nation's highest jobless rates.

The billions in unused funds - $2.5 billion - are part of a massive, year-old Illinois Jobs Now! Program. The I-Team's findings may lead you to ask: "My money is where?"

It is money that the state budget office tells the I-Team could put people to work on projects that have already been approved, but money that government agencies haven't bothered to pick up. Read the entire list of Illinois Jobs Now! projects

"The best social program is a J-O-B, a job. And that's what we believe in. We want people to work!" said Gov. Pat Quinn in July of 2009.

Surrounded by leaders including Mayor Daley, Gov. Quinn signed a $31 billion economic recovery plan last summer that was to create 439,000 jobs.

State budget records, however, reveal that 70 percent of the money allocated for the first year is still unused, surprising even the Illinois budget director.

"That's my attitude exactly, what's the hold up?" said David Vaught, Illinois budget director.

Some of the money is being spent, most notably on road projects including on the Eisenhower Expressway. But thousands of additional jobs that could be filled for this summer, haven't been - and the money is just sitting.

"We sold $4 billion in bonds to get the program moving. The money is available, the projects are authorized, as soon as the agencies, the non profits, you know, the hospitals, as soon as they get their grant applications in and get the paperwork done, or as soon as the bids go out, and people bid on the projects, the cash is flowing," said Vaught.

And despite Illinois' budget being $13 billion in the red, there is state cash available - and lots of it.

According to state records, there is almost $3 billion available for approved Illinois projects and the jobs that go with them; $2.61 billion is currently unclaimed by offices and agencies that include:

  • Stateville Prison in Joliet: $4.5 for construction of a new prisoner housing unit
  • shoreline stabilization at a state park in Lake County: $1 million
  • a new heating and air condition system at the Thompson Center: $4 million
  • a back up generator at Reed Mental Health Center: $1.4 million
  • They are all examples of projects funded but the money not yet being used.

    "If you're breathin', we want you workin'," said Quinn.

    At a stimulus event in Chicago Wednesday, the governor repeated one of his favorite jobs chants. And Quinn is upbeat even though most of his jobs bill money is still parked.

    "This is the biggest construction year of our state's history, in terms of road construction, drainage repair, water investment, rail, we're improving our rail, we're building and rebuilding our schools including university buildings and community colleges," said Quinn.

    "We want it to go faster. When we release the money, that's the authorization to the agencies to bid the contracts and get the money out, even," said Vaught.

    A $45,000 on the Northwest Side was among the first to receive state money. It is a pirate ship playground in Peterson Park that is due to receive another $50,000 in state jobs funds.

    "I don't know about the pirate ship projects, I have not seen that particular one but many members have asked for projects that they think are park related, if the kids want to play on a pirate ship, that's a good recreational activity that people may," said Vaught.

    The state money in Illinois' Jobs Now! plan comes from 20-year bonds backed by fee and tax increases as well as video poker proceeds. The poker machines haven't yet produced a legal dime.

    Illinois Jobs Now! website

    Illinois Jobs Now! highlights

    Stateville Prison state park in Lake County

    Thompson Center

    Read Mental Health Center


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