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Illinois House to 
consider road funds, child welfare money

SPRINGFIELD – House Speaker Michael Madigan is proposing more money for state programs in a plan that takes advantage of new road building funds, shifts money saved from prison closures to child-welfare services that could also spare up to 1,900 jobs.

The Chicago Democrat’s legislation includes a $675 million boost to transit construction highly prized by businesses and labor unions.

The plan is part of an annual exercise aimed at shoring up parts of state government that are running short of money halfway through the fiscal year.

The House Executive Committee was scheduled to consider the appropriations bill Monday.

Also part of the plan is $25 million that Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn expects to save from closing correctional facilities. Quinn wants the money shifted to the Department of Children and Family Services. The agency will use the money to add child-abuse investigators and other employees to recruit foster parents and more quickly reunite children with their birth families.

The bill also includes $12 million for community mental health grants, $83 million for workers’ compensation claims, $25 million for rental housing assistance, $5.7 million for job-training programs and $5 million for construction of a 200-bed veterans’ home.

The so-called supplemental appropriation – including the infusion of road money and the transfer of child-protection funds – failed after political bickering in the Senate during the final days of the last legislative session in January.

A committee controlled by Democrats voted it down when senators objected to funding going to or being withheld from areas such as public schools or horse racing. That made businesses and organized labor nervous. The Transportation for Illinois Coalition turned up the pressure last week, saying the Legislature needed to move quickly to get the trucks moving this spring – the season begins as early as next month when project bids are solicited for the first time.

The money includes a $175 million infusion of federal money after Congress adopted a new national transit strategy last summer. There’s $500 million of state money available this year from healthy motor-fuel tax revenues, previous projects that cost less than expected, and work scheduled for later years that could be bumped up.

The Department of Children and Family Services would avoid as many as 1,900 layoffs with the additional money, spokesman Dave Clarkin said. Middle management positions have been eliminated and the agency has moved staffers into “front line” positions.

Those positions include 138 investigators who knock on doors in response to abuse complaints, staff members to recruit foster parents because of shortages, and other employees to focus on moving foster kids back into homes with their birth families.

The bill is HB190.


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