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SPRINGFIELD – Earth Day is Friday and Gov. Pat Quinn has been making his way through the state this week to promote environmentally friendly practices. But his plans will be costly.

By Andrew Thomason

SPRINGFIELD – Earth Day is Friday and Gov. Pat Quinn has been making his way through the state this week to promote environmentally friendly practices. But his plans will be costly.

Quinn said Tuesday after touting the transformation of the state’s Bilandic building in Chicago from an energy hog to an example of energy efficiency that he’d like to borrow up to $2 billion to make other state facilities more energy efficient.

This would be in addition to the original $31 billion capital program Quinn signed two years ago.

“We must continue improving our state’s aging infrastructure, increasing energy efficiency and making sure the sate operates more efficiently,” said Annie Thompson, a spokeswoman for Quinn.

Quinn’s office estimates that every $1 spent on energy efficient measures would create long-term savings of between $2 and $4.

The biggest hurdle for Quinn’s wish is that no governor can act unilaterally on borrowing. It takes three-fifths of each legislative chamber to give the OK before the state can borrow.

Senate President John Cullerton’s spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said they are aware of the plan, but it is on their backburner for now.

“The Senate is currently concentrating its efforts on cutting the state’s operating budget, not increasing capital projects,” Phelon said.

Cullerton last week called Quinn’s budget bloated and said he would like to see $1.2 billion cut from it. Democrats could pass a budget without Republican votes, but because of the makeup of the Legislature, borrowing needs support from Republicans.

Senate GOP leader Christine Radogno’s office said Quinn has talked to them about the possibility of borrowing in a larger context but no details about energy efficiency or anything else were offered. Such generality isn’t enough for Republicans in the Senate, according to Mark Gordon, a Radogno spokesman.

“We’re not inclined to support additional debt for the state right now,” Gordon said.

Other Senate Republicans have called borrowing a “non-starter” in recent weeks.

On the House of Representatives side, Steven Brown, spokesman for Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said they have been working with Quinn to come up with what’s best for the state.

This isn’t the first time Quinn’s proposal to borrow money through bonds has met skepticism on both sides of the aisle. Earlier this year Quinn floated the idea of borrowing $8.75 billion to pay off the state’s deficit and old bills, which quickly stalled in the Legislature.

Lawmakers have called for a smaller amount, if any at all, borrowed to reduce the state’s deficit.

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