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State News

January 2, 2013

$275M more for Illinois roads available, OK is part of Legislature's final days

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois could have $275 million more for road and bridge projects this year if lawmakers approve a Department of Transportation funding plan, according to a summary obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Transportation officials identified $400 million, mostly in extra federal and freed-up state money, to pump into the transit improvement program during the next five years. One lawmaker said the agency is pushing for immediate legislative approval so work can begin once the weather warms up.

The DOT would push $275 million of the infusion into this construction season. That would represent a 15 percent increase over the $1.76 billion the agency previously announced it would spend in the budget year that ends June 30, but still less than a year earlier.

"The unanswered question is where will the money be spent," Senate Assistant Majority Leader John Sullivan, a Rushville Democrat, said Tuesday. "Assuming this is adequately addressed, I believe there will be bipartisan support."

A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton said Senate Democrats would decide Wednesday whether to include the request in this week's three-day gathering.

It's a late addition to what could be a busy agenda as lawmakers wind down their two-year session before a new General Assembly is sworn in Jan. 9.

The Senate will be in three days this week, the House, most of next. But major issues dancing in the heads of legislators and Gov. Pat Quinn include wide-scale reform to shore up the underfunded pension system, legalization of gay marriage and a military-style assault weapons ban.

Driving the optimism is the fact that it's a "lame-duck" session featuring dozens of lawmakers who can vote without fear of voter backlash because they weren't re-elected in November or are otherwise not returning to their seats.

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