Illinois banking on federal funds

February 3, 2009 2:52:18 PM PST
Finding ways to spend money from the stimulus package won't be a problem in Illinois. The need is great.Now the question is how much can the state expect from Washington?


That's how much one group estimates Illinois will receive if the federal stimulus package passes. While that figure has a lot of commas, it also gives plenty of people pause.

Here's a look at how the money may get spent.

New CTA train cars, faster rails. Road improvement projects. Metra overpasses plus a new station near Sox Park.

Those are just some of the projects that may get funded in the federal stimulus plan.

"We don't know yet, we don't know what the issues will be," said Mayor Daley.

ABC7 learned on Tuesday that a top aide to Mayor Daley recently met with President Obama's team about the prospects of using some of the stimulus money to pay off a good portion of the massive O'Hare modernization program.

"You have to find out what projects fit in it, if there are projects are ready to go, whether there are any projects ready to go. It becomes a federal project," said Daley.

Local governments are lining up with their hands out.

Cook County says it has $581 million worth of projects that are ready to go. Kane County would like to spend nearly half that. Other suburban counties have more modest wish lists.

"The package that we're looking at would probably decrease unemployment in Illinois by about 200,000 people over the coming years," said Joshua Picker, Center for American Progress.

That may be true but many are questioning the urgency of some proposals.

In Chicago, there's talk the city might use money for its Green Alleys program which turns old tires into a permeable surface that reduces flooding.

The stimulus plan also included $75 million for programs like this one to train counselors to help people across the country stop smoking. Some have questioned how that creates jobs.

"This is a stimulus reform with an extra bonus in that it improves health. There should be no question that $75 million to smoking cessation would create jobs, probably 1500 jobs and help a lot of families," said Joel Africk, Respiratory Health Association of Chicago.

Late Tuesday morning, ABC7 was told that $75 million for smoking cessation got dropped from the stimulus bill. But the wheeling and dealing continues in Washington. Leaders at the city, state and county level will likely have some lee-way on how to spend some of the funds.