Lawmakers block Quinn from getting capital plan, accuse him of breaking his word
Gov. Pat Quinn promised Friday to use the newly passed capital construction plan as leverage to get his state budget proposal approved next week. Then lawmakers one-upped him.
Quinn announced early in the day he would not sign the construction plan lawmakers sent him Thursday until they also approve a balanced state budget and major ethics reforms.
But later on, the sponsor of the three bills making up the construction plan used a parliamentary move to keep the plan from going to Quinn's desk. Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said Quinn went back on his word to not link the capital plan to the budget.
"When the governor is ready to sign the bill, I'll send it to him," said Lang, D-Skokie.
The parliamentary move, known at the Capitol as reconsidering the vote that approved the measures, now lets the House decide when - or if - Quinn gets the construction package. It has been used before to delay budgets reaching the governor, and once was used to prevent a plan that would reinstate an electric rate freeze from including customers in northern Illinois.
Quinn spokeswoman Katie Ridgway said the governor has been committed all along to a capital bill, balanced budget and ethics reform.
"The governor has never gone back on his word," Ridgway said.
Quinn said earlier in the week he wanted lawmakers to wait on a capital plan until they approved a budget. But after they put it on his desk in quick fashion, he took that further.
"I don't plan to sign anything until we finish our work," Quinn said. "It's a long race and you don't stop when you're about, you know, a half mile to go. We've got to keep on running no matter how hard it is."
"Changing a course of action like this is very disturbing," Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said of Quinn's latest pledge.
Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, said the Senate took up the capital program partially because of Quinn's insistence that it was a priority.
"We took him seriously, did it, and now we are ready to focus on ethics and budget," Phelon said.
Quinn's no-action pledge came as he pushed for legislators to commit another $400 million in funding for high-speed rail service. Lawmakers are still considering how to spend more than $1 billion in capital money.
"Right now, we do not have in our capital bill money for high-speed rail," Quinn said. "I think that was an oversight and I made that crystal clear to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House that high-speed rail must be included."
The first high-speed rail corridor Quinn wants to build is a line between Chicago and St. Louis, including a stop in Springfield. Other areas where Quinn would like to see improved rails include Rockford, Peoria and the Quad Cities.
Quinn said he's optimistic that ethics reforms and an acceptable budget will be on his desk before the legislature leaves for its summer break on May 31.
"I'm confident that everything is going to get done," Quinn said.
Lang's move puts the capital program back on the negotiating table, as lawmakers return for a scheduled final week of work next week.
Sen. John Sullivan, D-Sullivan, doesn't see it creating a major problem.
"If we need to consider both of them over the course of the next week, then so be it. I'm not that concerned about the capital bill," said Sullivan, D-Rushville. "There's tremendous support for it."