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Gov. Quinn signs $2 billion spending plan despite GOP objections

Updated: February 8, 2013 1:13PM



SPRINGFIELD-Gov. Pat Quinn signed a $2 billion-plus package to fund road construction, avert layoffs in the state's child-welfare agency and pay health-insurance bills for state workers after it passed the Senate Thursday despite GOP no-votes.

The legislation the governor signed sailed out of the Senate 38-15 and came one day after Quinn called on lawmakers to send him the supplemental spending bill designed to fund construction and cash-starved areas of state government for the next five months.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Quinn described the legislation as one "that will put people to work and protect the most vulnerable among us."

The measure covers spending for more than $600 million worth of unpaid healthcare costs for state employees, $675 million in spring road construction and $25 million to avert layoffs in the Department of Children and Family Services.

The legislation didn't require new revenue sources because it essentially rearranged existing state and federal money already in the state budget.

"This is a good initiative. It'll support human services and community-based mental health, which is desperately needed," said Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), the bill's chief Senate sponsor.

The legislation was fast-tracked, passing the House and Senate in two days, but not without a misstep the Quinn administration acknowledged could have a "significant impact" in hindering roadwork envisioned under the plan.

The administration intended to dip into the state's Road Fund, which pays for road and bridge work, for $125 million to fund state employee health care costs. Instead, the legislation set the Road Fund diversion at $176 million.

Rather than slow down the legislation, as Senate Republicans sought, the head of the Illinois Department of Transportation, Ann Schneider, promised in a letter to a key Senate Democrat not to exceed the $125 million diversion originally envisioned.

But that pledge wasn't enough to assuage wary Republicans, who voted against the stopgap spending deal after their bid to delay passage of the bill was ignored by Senate Democrats.

"We're left in a position because we rushed and have a flawed draft where we have to take the word of the administration rather than just having the bill right and not having to worry about what happens after this," said state Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine), who voted against the plan.



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