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Newsroom :: Waste Watch  - Waste Watch: Pork Projects in Supplemental Funding Bill?

Waste Watch: Pork Projects in Supplemental Funding Bill?

Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill Thursday to fund hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of road projects across the state.
   
Both the House and Senate approved the plan this week to shore up the shortfalls in the state's budget for the next six months. But the bill contains a number of other projects that critics argue are "unnecessary."

The bill includes more than $600 million in unexpected federal and state money for road construction.
   
But, Republicans say it all amounts to a plan to spend $2 billion the state doesn't have.

In a 38-to-15 vote Thursday, the Senate gave the green light to a supplemental funding plan to help state agencies falling short halfway through the budget year.
   
As part of the capital program, supporters said, the bill will allow the state to repair bridges and improve roads this spring.

"We have to get people back to work, and I have long said the best way to do that is a road program," said Democratic Sen. Andy Manar.

The plan also shifts $25 million saved from closing prisons and detention centers to the Department of Children and Family Services.
   
The money will pay for more child abuse investigators and services for foster families.
   
The bill moves money for employee health insurance, and it appropriates funds for grants to military families.

"Some of the needs are immediate and need to be addressed," Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski said. "It strikes a balance."
   
The plan doesn't include any new revenue or additional cost to the state.
But Republicans argue it amounts to $2 billion in spending.

"The new Democrat-controlled General Assembly--this is the first bill to pass, and it goes right back to spending new money we don't have," Republican Sen. Chapin Rose said.
   
A closer look at the 90-page plan shows a number of other individual projects across the state, including:

  • $1 million to buy land or a building for a new children's museum in Springfield.
  • $175,000 to microfilm newspapers and manuscripts at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
  • $115,000 for infrastructure improvements to the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame in Danville.
  • $50,000 for a street sweeper in the Chicago suburbs.
  • $24,000 to replace a floating boardwalk in Grundy County.

"It's got four new things in it for Chicago State University but doesn't address any of the funding issues where we haven't paid the U of I, Western, Eastern etc.," Rose said.

Republicans are criticizing the timing of the funding plan. Democrats waived a 24-hour posting requirement to pass the plan in the Senate Thursday.

The plan also changes the rule for funding the East St. Louis School District. Republicans questioned whether that creates a precedent. Democrats said the circumstances are unique and the situation dire.

Waste Watch: Pork Projects in Supplemental Funding Bill?

Wednesday, April 23 2014, 10:23 AM CDT

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