OAK BROOK — With a Friday afternoon deadline looming, Gov. Pat Quinn says he is confident Illinois’ $31-billion road construction program will not shut down since two legislators have agreed to return to the state Capitol and reauthorize the massive road, bridge and school program.

By Benjamin Yount

OAK BROOK — With a Friday afternoon deadline looming, Gov. Pat Quinn says he is confident Illinois’ $31-billion road construction program will not shut down since two legislators have agreed to return to the state Capitol and reauthorize the massive road, bridge and school program.

“Anybody who says it’s a manufactured crisis ought to read the Illinois Constitution,” Quinn said. “It’s crystal clear that we cannot spend a penny for work done after the first of July.”

With the rumble of the Tri-State Tollway around him, Quinn on Thursday said House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Senate Republican Minority Leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, have said they will support an up-or-down vote on the construction package. That vote could come on Wednesday.

Without an agreement from all four legislative leaders by Friday, and then a vote by Wednesday, Quinn said he would have to halt construction across the state. The leaders who have yet to respond are Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and House Republican leader Tom Cross, of Oswego.

State Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan, said the state cannot afford to let construction projects shut down. Workers are widening and resurfacing the main runway of the Quad Cities International Airport, Verschoore said.

“If they don’t get that finished, then they are going to shut that airport down, because they will not allow them to use temporary runway during the winter,” Verschoore said. “That is one project that is very important.”

State Rep. Richard Morthland, R-Cordova, said he was concerned about the possible delay of the new Western Illinois University’s Quad-Cities’ Riverfront campus.

“This isn’t a year-round construction season state,” Morthland said. “Here in farming, we say you have to make hay when the sun shines, and in construction, you have to make road when ground is not frozen. And so delays or setbacks could be very detrimental.”

Quinn, who won re-election based, in part, on his pledge to be the “jobs governor,” reiterated that he is being forced to act.

“This is a real emergency,” Quinn said.

The road program is in trouble because Senate Democrats tied its reauthorization to $430 million in additional spending for education and human services. Senate Republicans, and both parties in the House, balked at the extra money and left town without resolving questions about the construction package.

State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, disagreed with Quinn about construction being in danger of stopping.

“There is obviously money that is in the pipeline in transportation and in capital that would continue coverage going,” Syverson said. “But clearly for the uncertainty that is there from contractors and communities, this should have been done weeks ago. We should not have left Springfield until this was done, so delaying it has clearly created the problem.”

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, said Quinn is only threatening to halt construction projects.

“I voted against the continuation of the payments for an additional six months, but he now has legislative authority to continue payments until the end of the year,” Franks said. “I think he can do it, but I think what he is doing is trying to … strong arm the Senate.”

Quinn told Cullerton that the immediate focus should be the road program. Other budget questions on education and human services spending can wait.

“I’m open-minded to (the additional spending),” Quinn said. “I said I thought there ought to be a full review and debate on that in the fall, in the veto session.”

Madigan and Cullerton have said they will call lawmakers back for regular session, avoiding the need for Quinn to order a special session and avoiding the costs of a special session. Lawmakers do not get paid for regular session days in the summer. Special session days would cost taxpayers nearly $50,000 a day.

The state’s construction program should continue uninterrupted, Cullerton said in an emailed statement.

“There are still major structural deficiencies in the House budget that will become clear in the months ahead,” Cullerton said in the statement. “I look forward to having the opportunity to address issues such as the underfunding of education and social service commitments.”

The governor said he doesn’t care how lawmakers are called back to Springfield, so long as they get there.

“My objective is to get them down there, get a vote on our job recovery bill … roll up our sleeves and get the job done,” Quinn said.

State Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville, said lawmakers should keep construction projects separated from the extra spending for education and human services.

“Let’s have these budget discussions, but let’s not try to hijack and try to hold hostage,” Eddy said. “That’s what got us into this mess, so let’s try to stay away from those practices and try to come up with some realistic spending amounts.”

Diane S.W. Lee contributed to this story.

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