Road construction could stop due to budget impasse

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Some major road construction projects in Illinois are in jeopardy tonight because of the state budget impasse. (WLS)

Some major road construction projects in Illinois are in jeopardy because of the state budget impasse. On Friday, Governor Bruce Rauner proposed a stop gap measure to prevent a work stoppage.

With most attention so far focused on whether Illinois public schools can open for the fall semester, the lack of a state budget poses a more imminent threat to thousands of road builders.

Among the 800 state highway projects at risk is the Jane Byrne Interchange on the near west side. If the governor and general assembly do not agree on at least a stopgap appropriation bill, all such state-funded roadwork will come to a screeching halt.

"We're talking about 25,000 construction workers. Their jobs are at risk July 1st," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn.

Blankenhorn says his department will shut down $2 billion worth of construction sites statewide until money is appropriated to resume the work.

"We keep open what we can so that we don't completely shut down the system while making safe that piece that is under construction," said Blankenhorn.

Governor Rauner says roadwork would continue uninterrupted if lawmakers pass his proposed "stopgap" funding for essential services. He's put aside his demands for pro-business, union-weakening reforms to get a short-term spending bill passed by July 1.

"The problems are huge and it's going to take more revenue," said Democratic State Rep. Greg Harris from Chicago.

But Harris wants the governor's stop gap budget to consider those human services and education programs also threatened by the continuing impasse over the full budget.

"That's going to take more money than the governor so far has been willing to say he wants to spend," said Harris

House Speaker Mike Madigan, who calls the governor's reform agenda a threat to the middle class, has not summoned his majority Democrats back to Springfield to vote on Rauner's stopgap spending plan.

Blankenhorn worries that companies building and repairing state roads will begin laying off workers in less than two weeks.

"They're private contractors, mainly union employees, that are going to be out there losing their jobs," said Blankenhorn.

Meanwhile, lawmaker working groups continue their meetings.

They reportedly are now trying to work out details of a stopgap spending plan for public education as well as essential services.

But there apparently has not been enough progress yet to get members back to Springfield for votes.
Related Topics:
politicsillinois budgetBruce Raunerconstruction
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