Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich last week announced a nearly $11 billion, multi-year highway improvement program, but it hinges in part on passage of a $31 billion capital program by the General Assembly.

Lawmakers reconvened this week after a long holiday weekend to focus their attention on an operating budget for fiscal 2008, which begins July 1. The Senate and House each passed their own versions of a spending plan and will try this week to resolve their differences in order to adjourn by the end of the week.

Lawmakers said they believe a capital budget will have to wait until a scheduled fall veto session. There is bipartisan support for a capital bill, but so far no agreement on how large it should be or how the state will pay for it. Funding proposals include privatizing the state lottery and expanding gaming.

“It’s been nine years since Illinois has passed a capital investment plan,” the governor said in a statement. “If the General Assembly is serious about putting people to work and investing in our future, then I urge them to get behind Illinois Works. Send me a capital investment plan that I can sign and let’s get to work expanding and improving our transportation infrastructure, our schools, and our economy.”

Under the highway program that would be overseen by the Illinois Department of Transportation, $7.79 billion will go towards the state’s highway system while $3.08 billion will finance local road projects. In the state system, $5.6 billion — or almost three-fourths — will fund roadway maintenance, safety, and bridge repair. About $1.54 billion would fund congestion relief projects, including $477 million for a new Mississippi River Bridge crossing and connecting roadways in the St. Louis/Metro East area. About $633 million would fund expansion projects.

The plan relies on a mix of funding, including $7.1 billion in federal funds, $3.1 billion in state funds, and $686 million of local money. The state contribution would come from a mix of pay-as-you go funds from transportation-related taxes and fees and borrowing. State funding is needed also to help leverage the federal dollars that would pay for projects.

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