SPRINGFIELD — A proposal designed to plug leaks in the state budget won narrow approval Tuesday in the Illinois House.
The Democrat-sponsored measure, endorsed on a mostly party line, 63-52 vote, would allow the state to hire workers to check on abused children, boost spending on road and bridge construction projects and finance employee health insurance programs for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
While supporters said the outlay was critical to keeping basic state programs on track, opponents said they were troubled by the inclusion of a number of smaller projects in the 90-page proposal at a time when Gov. Pat Quinn has closed prisons, youth detention facilities and homes for the developmentally disabled.
State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said Quinn’s money-saving move to close the Tamms Correctional Center, for example, was triggering violence elsewhere in the state’s overcrowded prison system.
“I’m telling you, what we’re using is blood money,” Bost said.
The legislation includes $115,000 to help launch a high school basketball hall of fame in Danville, $1 million to help build a new children’s museum in downtown Springfield and $167,148 for a museum in Rosiclare dedicated to fluorspar mining.
“It’s kind of strange that they are in this bill,” Bost added.
In a statement, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said, “While the bill includes some items that have merit, Democrats unfortunately bogged it down with millions in unnecessary and irresponsible spending.”
In defending the additional spending, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said the proposal is actually smaller than what Quinn had initially sought.
“We restrained ourselves,” Currie said. “This represents a pretty austere response.”
Supporters said the focus should be on the jobs that could be created by the addition of $675 million for highway construction projects, including $3.4 million in upgrades to Interstate 57 in Southern Illinois.
The legislation also restores $25 million to the Department of Children and Family Services to hire child abuse investigators and adds $12 million for community mental health programs.
In addition to giving Quinn additional cash for a number of programs, the House also approved legislation Tuesday that gives Quinn more time to prepare his budget address. Rather than unveil his spending plan Feb. 20, he will get an extra two weeks to work the numbers.
Some legislators opposed the extension.
“Every day the governor delays, our debts grow larger,” said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-McHenry.
Both measures now head to the Senate for further debate.
The budget legislation is House Bill 190. The speech extension legislation is House Bill 156.