By Jamey Dunn
The House approved more than $1 billion in capital construction spending, the bulk of which would be spent by the Illinois Department of Transportation on “shovel ready” projects.
House Bill 3794 calls for $1.1 billion in construction spending, $1 billion of which would go to road and bridge projects included in IDOT’s 5-year plan. The bill does not list the projects because they would be determined by IDOT, but sponsor Rep. Luis Arroyo said that the department plans to prioritize projects that are ready to go during the summer construction season. The remaining $100 million would go to local street repair projects.
The money for construction would come from funding sources approved as part of the 1999 Illinois First capital program. Borrowing for the plan has been paid off, but the increased fees and taxes remain. “Some of that debt has been retired. It’s been paid off, and the revenue stream that was used to support it is now available,” said House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The plan passed with bipartisan support. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said that after the particularly harsh winter, the state’s roads need work. “Illinois roads were clobbered.” He said that while Republicans opposed other construction projects passed in the House yesterday, this pared-down plan is “responsible” because the spending will be decided by IDOT instead of legislators. “It’s a smaller bill, but this is going to get us through the end of the year.”
But some lawmakers questioned spending money that could otherwise go into the general revenue fund on a rushed capital bill that does not include anything other than road and bridge projects. “I think this is the wrong time to do this, and I think this is the wrong approach,” said Northbrook Democrat Rep. Elaine Nekritz. and
Proponents argued that this plan can be accomplished now to get people to work in the coming months, and the issue of a larger capital plan could be revisited later. “Bottom line, this is going to put people to work. Those people will pay taxes, and some of those taxes will come to the state of Illinois,” said Madigan.