Quinn OKs "Mini" Construction Program | NBC Chicago

Quinn OKs "Mini" Construction Program

First part of $3 billion plan passed Friday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Illinois Information Service
    Gov. Pat Quinn had repeatedly asked lawmakers to pass a construction bill by Friday, the last day before they left for a two-week Easter break.

    Gov. Pat Quinn delivered Friday on a promise to pass the first part of a $3 billion statewide construction plan before lawmakers left town for spring break, a program that should put tens of thousands of people to work this spring.

    The Chicago Democrat signed the plan less than 12 hours after lawmakers sent it to his desk.

    "This is one of the most important things that we're doing right now in Springfield," Quinn said. "It was really a team effort."

    Now the question is whether that team can pass a $25 billion construction program, accompanied by higher taxes and fees, that's under discussion at the Capitol.

    The smaller program that lawmakers approved Friday focuses on construction work that can be launched quickly and supported by diverting money from the state road fund. It includes $1 billion for public transit improvements, $450 million to jump-start projects on the top of the Illinois Department of Transportation's to-do list and $150 million to fix potholes.

    Quinn had repeatedly asked lawmakers to pass a construction bill by Friday, the last day before they left for a two-week Easter break. The measure zipped through the legislature Thursday after weeks of private negotiations.

    Quinn's signature means construction could begin in May to take advantage of the spring construction season, supporting roughly 80,000 jobs

    Quinn also approved spending $6.7 billion in federal stimulus money on other needs like high-speed rail or paying overdue Medicaid bills.

    The new law also includes $1.6 million to reopen historic sites -- like the log cabin where Abraham Lincoln's family lived -- that then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich closed in November to save money. But the money won't be enough to reopen all 11 shuttered ones, said David Blanchette, spokesman for the Historic Preservation Agency.

    Agency officials have not decided which sites will reopen, Blanchette said. But the ones that do open will be ready for the tourist season that begins on Memorial Day weekend.

    Whether the sites will stay open depends on funding for the next fiscal year, Blanchette said.