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SPRINGFIELD — After weeks of consternation about a summer session, Illinois lawmakers took less than three hours to ensure that work will continue on Illinois massive statewide construction plan.

By Benjamin Yount

SPRINGFIELD — After weeks of consternation about a summer session, Illinois lawmakers took less than three hours to ensure that work will continue on Illinois massive statewide construction plan.

The General Assembly Wednesday reauthorized this year’s portion of the state’s $31 billion construction package and cut their pay. Neither move was a surprise.

Construction work

Gov. Pat Quinn warned lawmakers earlier this month that work on new roads, bridges, schools and university buildings would grind to a halt, because the Legislature could not agree on the annual reauthorization.

The Democratic Senate, who tried to tie $430 million in new spending for education and human services to the reauthorization, on Wednesday extolled the need for the road plan and the jobs it would save.

State Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said lawmakers realized that billions of dollars and thousands of jobs are too important.

These projects are “something that everybody across the state was concerned with,” said Sullivan. “But we got that job done.”

State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said his district has $560 million worth of construction projects.

“All these jobs could have gone by the wayside,” Jacobs said. “And I’m pleased that my Republican friends didn’t just vote no, but voted yes.”

There was little doubt that lawmakers would approve the massive infrastructure program, said state Sen. Pam Althoff, R-Crystal Lake.

“That is a jobs bill. We are going to keep people on the job. We are going to see our construction projects and our capital projects move forward. Unbelievably important. Happy to come back down here for that,” said Althoff.

Quinn, in a statement, applauded lawmakers.

“The General Assembly took action today to keep the state’s biggest economic recovery program going, ensuring that thousands of workers stay on the job,” said Quinn.

Pay cuts

Lawmakers always have voted to cut their own pay, with this time being no different. The measure unanimously passed the House, but saw four Senators casting opposing votes for its passage with 48-4 votes.

State Sen. Anazette Collins, D-Chicago, said she works hard for her legislative salary, and does not want to cave in to grandstanding.

“I could do it for free if I was rich, but I’m not. And I have mouths to feed. I have myself to take care of,” said Collins. “And I’m not going to pretend that I am rich and that I can do it for free.”

Collins and state Sens. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, and Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, joined state Sen. Tom Johnson, R-Naperville, in voting against the pay cut.

State Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, said legislative pay cuts and furlough days will save about $500,000.

“I know this is difficult, but people at home and in their business have had to make very difficult decisions. And I know this is public service and I know there is sacrifice involved in it,” said Kotowski.

Illinois lawmakers make nearly $68,000 a year. Wednesday’s vote would take $3,000 from each legislator next year. This is the third consecutive year lawmakers have voted to trim their pay.

Both the construction package and the pay cut go to Quinn’s desk for his signature.

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