Quinn: Budget impasse threatens 52,000 jobs

2011-06-06T12:38:00Z 2011-06-07T16:01:09Z Quinn: Budget impasse threatens 52,000 jobsBy Kurt Erickson | kurt.erickson@lee.net pantagraph.com

SPRINGFIELD — An impasse among state lawmakers over a key part of the state budget could jeopardize scores of construction projects around the state, Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday.

Projects ranging from new buildings under construction at the state’s public universities to renovation work at state parks, prisons and historic sites could be put on hold in as few as 10 days, idling an estimated 52,000 of workers during the height of the summer construction season.

Quinn, speaking to reporters in Chicago, said lawmakers should return to the Capitol in order to formally approve new spending on the projects.

“What we have to do is get everyone together and have them finish their business,” Quinn said. “It must be resolved.”

Legislative leaders agree something needs to be done to avoid a shutdown, but they haven’t yet set a time to discuss the outlines of legislation that could be put before lawmakers for a vote.

“No decisions have been made,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.

Among projects in the crosshairs is the $62.8 million transportation education center being built at Southern Illinois University.

SIU President Glenn Poshard said the project is important not only to the university, but to the region because of lingering high unemployment.

The facility, which is about one-third complete, employs hundreds of construction workers who may not otherwise have jobs.

“I don’t know what we’d do if we had to shut it down,” Poshard said.

Smaller projects sprinkled throughout downstate Illinois also could be indefinitely suspended, ranging from security and roofing upgrades at prisons to water system improvements at state historic sites like the Lincoln Log Cabin in Coles County.

Road and bridge upgrades that have popped up throughout the state as the weather has warmed also could be put on hold.

The projects are in limbo because lawmakers in the Illinois House balked at renewing the construction funding after Democrats in the Senate attached an extra $430 million in spending to the legislation.

In his announcement, Quinn did not call for the General Assembly to return on a specific date.

Phelon said legislative leaders haven’t discussed a timetable for a special session.

“There is no date certain at this point,” Phelon said.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said it is unclear whether Quinn can simply shut down projects or whether the work can continue if she has money to pay contractors. The Riverside Republican has asked her attorney to review the matter and called on lawmakers to “not play games” with the projects.

“It is one thing to limit state spending on construction, but quite another to stop payment on projects already under way,” Topinka said. “My office will continue to pay state contractors for as long as legally possible, but ultimately this question must be addressed by the General Assembly and governor.”

 

 

 

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