Senate votes on capital plan despite Quinn's request to solve budget mess first
The Illinois Senate overwhelmingly approved an almost $29 billion capital construction program Wednesday, despite Gov. Pat Quinn's request they address a state budget first.
But it's not a done deal quite yet.
Speaking at the governor's prayer breakfast Wednesday morning at a Springfield hotel, Quinn said he wants a capital plan but not before addressing budget needs.
"I think senators shouldn't be voting on a capital plan until they take care of real-live human beings in the operating budget," Quinn said. "I think some of our members of the General Assembly, they want to have all kinds of projects, and I'd like to see 'em too. But we can't put that ahead of real people who have real needs."
Lawmakers quickly rejected that. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno "vehemently" disagreed with Quinn, insisting that the passage of a capital program would help the budget process.
"It's important that we do this before we do the budget because it may impact what we need to do on the budget side," said Radogno, R-Lemont.
Senate President John Cullerton agreed.
"We're certainly concerned about the budget as well as the capital. We can do both at the same time," said Cullerton, D-Chicago.
The construction plan senators approved raises money from various areas, including legalizing video poker, privatizing management of the state Lottery and raising taxes on liquor and candy.
The measure now moves to the Illinois House, where it is expected to get broad support but not necessarily immediately.
"We're supporting the bill. I'm sure it'll move through expeditiously, but when is an open question," said Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
Radogno and Cullerton stressed the importance of working with each other, the House and Quinn in forming the legislation. Previous attempts to pass a capital program were mired by disputes between the legislature and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
"It's been a long time since there's been cooperation, where people actually trusted one another's words," Radogno said.
For the most part, lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the capital plan, though some had misgivings about the details of how to pay for it.
"Quite frankly, there are parts in here that I would prefer not be here," said Cullerton.
Critics voiced concerns about the impact of expanding gambling on the state but in the end, the possibility of losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in funding was enough to sway most lawmakers in the Senate.
Lawmakers still have a lot left on their plate even after getting a capital construction program done.
"We've said from day one that we want to get the capital bill done," said Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville. "We want to get any ethics reforms done this week because next week. We know we have a monumental task in trying to pass a budget for the state of Illinois."
A look at the specific proposals the Senate approved Wednesday to fund a statewide capital construction program:
--Legalizing video poker in places like bars, truck stops and social clubs, to raise an estimated $375 million.
--Handing over day-to-day management of the Illinois Lottery to a private firm and allowing the sale of lottery tickets online, to raise an estimated $150 million.
--Increasing the tax on alcohol, to raise $114 million. The cost of a bottle of wine would go up by 13 cents, of a bottle of spirits by 80 cents and a six-pack of beer by 2.6 cents.
--Extending the sales taxes to previously exempt items such as candy, non-carbonated beverages, and health and beauty products, to raise an additional $150 million.
--Increase vehicle fees, to raise an estimated $331 million. The vehicle registration fee and the cost of a driver's license will go up $20. Costs for titles and commercial licenses will each go up by $30.
Some highlights of the general spending categories included in the capital construction plan approved Wednesday by the Senate, according to information from Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago:
--$2.8 billion dollars in new road projects.
--$1.5 billion for school construction.
--$1.4 billion for universities and community colleges.
--$150 million for AMTRAK.
--$2 billion for public transportation: 10 percent for downstate, the rest to the Chicagoland area.
--$875 million for environmental and water projects.
--$150 million for state parks.