Road builders already see effects of capital-bill impasse
SPRINGFIELD -- Effects are already being felt from the legislature’s impasse over a capital bill, road builders say, even before Gov. Pat Quinn orders projects to begin shutting down.
Mike Sturino, president of the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, said contractors have been notified by the state not to start work on projects on which bids were approved April 29.
“If that work were started, people would be hired, supplies delivered,” Sturino said Friday. “Things are happening now already.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation issued a statement that did not directly address whether contractors have been told to hold off on projects.
“Without capital appropriations in place, awarded contracts from the April 29 bid letting or any other letting could not go forward after June 30,” spokesman Josh Kauffman said in the statement. “IDOT is in the process of informing contractors of timeframes and expectations to help them prepare based on the current status of appropriations.”
Lawmakers adjourned the spring session last week without taking final action on a bill to reauthorize hundreds of millions of dollars in road and construction projects. Gov. Pat Quinn said the state cannot legally issue checks for those projects after June 30 unless the bill is approved. He said he will start ordering that projects begin shutting down after June 17 unless lawmakers act.
No idle plans
Some Springfield contractors working on state projects said they aren’t doing anything different for now. Henson Robinson Co. is working on two larger projects at McFarland Mental Health Center and the motor vehicle services building. President Dan Hoselton said he hasn’t made any plans to idle workers because of the impasse.
“Until we know more, I just don’t spend a lot of time on the what-ifs,” Hoselton said. “Not yet, anyway.”
Dave Heneberry, president of United Constructors, said the company is continuing with business as usual in its $3.1 million renovation of the Dana-Thomas House State Historic Site.
“It’s kind of just wait-and-see,” Heneberry said. “We will be contacted by (the state) if and when they tell us to suspend operations. We’re still working, and we will continue to work. We have to fulfill our contract.”
Sean Stott, government affairs director for the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said he spoke with a large contractor who plans to keep working.
“He said they are still operating at full capacity with no intention of shutting down because we’ve gone through these impasses in the past and, quite frankly, they’ve been told to keep working in the past,” Stott said.
State contracts have deadlines for completing the work, but Sturino said that shouldn’t be an issue if the state sticks with past practices.
“If they (the state) are the ones who halt the work, they, as a matter of course, always extend the completion dates with no penalty to the contractor,” he said.
The Capital Development Board, which oversees non-road projects, said its standard contract allows the state to suspend work for up to 90 days and adjust deadlines accordingly.
Quinn said he will meet with the four legislative leaders Wednesday about an agenda for a special session. The principal issue on that agenda is the capital bill.
“The legislature has to meet. If we do it in a joint teamwork way, we can get it done pretty quickly,” Quinn said.
But the capital bill isn’t the only issue that could be on the agenda. Senate Democrats are pressing to reverse some spending cuts they approved when they passed a budget at the end of May. They tacked $430 million in “restorations” onto the capital bill to provide additional money to education and human-services programs.
The House wouldn’t accept those restorations and sent the capital bill back to the Senate, which adjourned before taking further action.
House vs. Senate
Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said Democrats still want some of the cuts reversed. However, they are now focusing on $280 million instead of $430 million. Phelon said Democrats have dropped a demand that $150 million in cuts to general state aid to schools be reversed.
Democrats believe the money is available because some money normally transferred from the state’s general fund into other accounts wasn’t transferred this year.
The House isn’t buying that.
“The House appropriations process accounted for all of the money that is available,” said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. “Those bills are on the governor’s desk. Then there is a resolution in place that says if there is any additional money, it goes to pay old bills.”
Madigan also believes the state can continue to pay for construction projects beyond June 30 because the legislature extended the “lapse period” for state spending -- the deadline for the state to pay off bills run up in the previous budget year – to Dec. 31.
Still, Brown said, “We’re prepared to work cooperatively with the governor and the Senate.”
Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.