CHICAGO - With a long-sought, nearly $29 billion capital budget headed to his desk, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday said he won't endorse the package before work is also completed on ethics reforms and an operating budget that includes an income tax increase to help close a record $12 billion deficit.
"I don't plan to sign anything until we finish our work," Quinn said at a news conference Friday during which he called for legislative support for $400 million in funds to leverage federal dollars for a high-speed rail line. "I think you have to have the major assignments given to you by the people of Illinois completed ... too many people are depending on us."
Quinn's position marks a reversal. Earlier this year, he pushed lawmakers to act quickly on a capital budget after a six-year drought in new bonding for capital and said he would not tie his signature to support for an operating budget.
He said urgent action was needed to create jobs and jump-start the state's economy. Such a link between the operating and capital budgets contributed to the bickering between lawmakers and Quinn's predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, and their inability for years to settle on a new capital program.
The Senate on Wednesday and the House on Thursday signed off on revenue, spending, and bonding bills to support a total $29 billion capital budget. The General Assembly authorized $3.6 billion in new general obligation and sales-tax backed borrowing to help fund it.
Additional authority to cover the state's share - $12 billion - will be sought in future years. Car title, license, and registration fees will rise, along with alcohol taxes and taxes on soft drinks, candy, and beauty aids to generate new revenue. The plan also relies on increased revenue from legalized video gaming in some establishments and the online sale of lottery tickets.
The new program would provide funding for roads, transit, school construction, bridges, higher education, environmental and other projects. Quinn also wants lawmakers to add $400 million of funding for a high-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Louis. He says that amount is needed to leverage a piece of the $8 billion in federal stimulus funds allocated for high-speed rail and another $5 billion the Obama administration has said is available for high-speed-rail grants.
"I'm asking the legislature to follow President Obama's lead and invest in the growth and efficiency for transportation in Illinois by appropriating funds in the capital bill needed to make high-speed rail a reality," Quinn said. The state Department of Transportation and Union Pacific Railroad earlier this month signed a development agreement for the $2.7 billion line.
Quinn's comments come as the General Assembly is moving into the final stretch, with the session slated to end by Sunday with no compromise in sight as of late last week on how to close the budget gap or on ethics reforms. Lawmakers are debating campaign finance reforms and other ethics measures spurred by the Blagojevich scandal. The former governor, who was removed from office by lawmakers in January, is facing a federal trial on corruption charges and pay-to-play allegations.
Quinn proposed $52.9 billion operating budget relies on an additional $2.9 billion from a 50% increase in individual income tax rate, to 4.5% from 3%, and $350 million from an increase in the corporate income tax. He also wants to restructure debt, cut the size of the state's scheduled pension payment, and dip into nongeneral fund surpluses.
Some lawmakers have suggested a temporary income tax increase, but Quinn has so far resisted the idea.