Lawmakers approve $18B spending bill

June 22, 2011 2:50:16 PM PDT
Illinois lawmakers avoided a possible shutdown of state construction projects by approving an $18 billion spending bill during a special session.

Senate President John Cullerton introduced the stripped-down public works bill without explaining how it was different.

"I would ask everyone to vote "aye." Be happy to answer any questions," Sen. Cullerton said.

A Republican was quick to remind the chamber why the measure's first version had been rejected.

"We don't have an additional $430 million to spend," State Senator Matt Murphy, (R) Palatine, said.

With an estimated 52,000 jobs at stake, passage of the bill to re-authorize the already-paid construction program to rebuild roads, bridges and public buildings was supposed to have been routine during the spring's regular session. But Senate Democrats tacked on an amendment to restore $430 million cut from social services and early childhood education:

"It was trying maintain what we did by way of education, by way of human services," State Senator Kwame Raoul, (D) Chicago, said.

In the House, moderate and conservative Democrats led by Speaker Michael Madigan joined forces with Republicans to reject the Senate bill with its new spending provisions:

"Every one of us would love to be able to give more money. We just don't have it, so we can't do it," State Rep. Jack Franks, (D) McHenry, said.

Last week, Speaker Madigan told ABC 7 he would oppose any new efforts to spend more money than the state collects. But Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno is skeptical of Illinois Democrats who claim to be fiscal conservatives.

"Today we let the capital bill go forward, saved the jobs, kept the roads safe. In the future, I think we will see proposals to continue to spend money and we'll have to continue to beat those backs because we simply don't have that money," Sen. Radogno said.

While the budget cutters may have won round one, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has said he'll not give up the effort to restore some social services and public education programs.

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