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State budget impasse delays $9 billion road construction plan
Project was expected to create 80,000 jobs
By Dan Carden | Daily Herald Staff


Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

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Published: 6/18/2009 12:00 AM

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SPRINGFIELD - A $9 billion program of shovel-ready road construction projects that was supposed to create up to 80,000 jobs in Illinois this summer has been delayed due to the state's continuing budget impasse.

The state's transportation department has started awarding contracts to construction companies to rebuild and repave roads throughout the state but the work won't begin until the companies know they're going to get paid, said Paris Ervin, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

"We can still make the awards, but right now the comptroller has no way of paying the money," Ervin said. "We're just hoping a budget agreement is made soon, otherwise the contractors will have to wait to get paid."

Some of the many suburban repaving projects that were scheduled for fast action included the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway in DuPage County, Golf Road in Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates, Highway 137 in North Chicago and Waukegan, and Highway 59 in Barrington. Many communities were also slated to receive road patching, paving and guardrail installation.

Those projects will all have to wait.

The problem is that funding for this road construction program is tied into the 2010 state budget. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Tuesday to try to correct the situation.

"If the legislature sent the governor a budget he agreed with we wouldn't be in this situation," Ervin said.

Lawmakers approved a budget in May that gave Gov. Pat Quinn about 50 percent of the money he requested to fund state agencies. Senate Democrats approved an income and sales tax increase to raise the rest of the needed revenue but House Democrats did not. Republicans in both chambers say they want to see major spending cuts before they'd even consider any tax increase.

When Quinn signed the $9 billion construction plan into law in April, state Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat, said the program could create up to 80,000 jobs.

Lawmakers approved a second, $30 billion construction plan in May. But Quinn said he won't approve it until lawmakers send him a budget that fully funds state government.