Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Quinn looks to lawmakers for new capital plan

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn said today that he plans ask legislators to provide ideas for a new state capital construction plan.

Quinn said that he intends to ask the four legislative leaders to put together a special committee that would try to tackle the capital issue. He said he envisions a group of about 10 people. He said that the committee would operate much like the conference committee, which helped to break a stalemate on pension reform last year. The current five-year capital plan, which was approved in 2009, is nearing an end. The plan is funded through revenues generated by video poker machines in bars, truck stops and restaurants throughout the state and various increased fees and taxes. A new plan would likely require new revenues. “It is important to realize that the funding from the five-year [capital] plan that we adopted is, through this year, very strong, but in the future we’ve got to enhance it,” Quinn said in Springfield today.

Quinn would not point to any potential funding sources today. “We’ll engage with them very quickly,” he said of the committee. “There’s a lot of ideas. I think we need to explore each and every one.” But he said that he would not back any proposal to increase the tax on gasoline. “I think that’s a depleting resource. I think that using the gas tax to fund our future would not be a wise idea. I’m not for that.” At this point, the governor is not pushing for a bill to be approved by the end of the spring session. A member of his staff said lawmakers would likely be working on the issue throughout the year. However, the governor does want something in place to avoid a gap between the current capital bill and the next.

Quinn’s comments came at a news conference to unveil the Illinois Department of Transportation’s annual six-year plan. The $8.6 billion construction plan is focused on maintenance of the state’s existing infrastructure. IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider said that almost three-fourths of the spending would go toward maintenance. “This is a fiscally responsible program. We are not putting something out that the Department of Transportation and the state of Illinois cannot afford,” she said. The plan will be funded with almost $7 billion in federal money and $1.16 billion in existing state funds. The rest of the money will come from local sources and the last of the funds allocated for roads and bridges in the existing capital plan, dubbed Illinois Jobs Now! by Quinn. Go to IDOT’s website for a partial list of the projects covered by the six-year plan.

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