CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed supplemental fiscal 2013 budget legislation that authorizes $1.5 billion in spending for transportation, group health insurance payments, and for an array of other areas including schools and social services.
“This important measure will allow us to begin construction projects this spring, putting Illinois workers back on the job repairing bridges and improving roads,” Quinn said in a statement.
Quinn and his fellow Democrats who sponsored House Bill 190 defended the legislation’s swift passage Thursday against Republican critics who labeled it as irresponsible and complained there was too little time to review where funds were directed.
Republicans said it sent the wrong message to rating agencies and the public as the state grapples with $9 billion in unpaid bills and other obligations and can’t settle on reforms to dig out from under $95 billion of unfunded pension liabilities.
The administration and sponsors countered that the appropriation legislation would have little fiscal impact on the state. Additional appropriations were needed to fund some areas of state government as they had nearly exhausted their spending authorization. The funds will come from unused revenues in some departments, additional federal funds now available, a surplus in the transportation fund, and other available state revenues.
The legislation allocates $675 million for transportation projects to ensure funds are available for the upcoming spring construction season. The state will finance the projects with federal funds it had not previously anticipated and a transportation fund surplus due in part to higher than expected motor fuel tax collections.
It also authorizes coverage of $600 million in health insurance costs, allocates $25 million for the Department of Children and Family Services, $12 million for mental health programs, $9 million for East St. Louis schools under state financial oversight, job training, and early childhood instruction grants. The health insurance funds were previously set aside, but the actual allocation was not authorized.
The state’s capital bond fund is running low on funds as the spring construction season is poised to start in the coming months. The state was planning a $500 million general obligation issue late last month but officials pulled the deal to further let the market digest recent news of a Standard & Poor’s downgrade that made the state the lowest rated by the agency.
The Civic Federation of Chicago reviewed state capital fund data and noted that only about $82.1 million in bond proceeds remain on hand. The state has issued more than $5 billion in capital purpose GOs since the passage of the $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now capital program was approved in fiscal 2010. The state has spent $1.4 billion of GO proceeds since the fiscal year began July 1 to help fund $22.7 billion in approved projects, according to the Civic Federation review.