Governor Quinn may convene legislature if state supreme court strikes down construction bill

July 8, 2011

Illinois' governor is suggesting he'll call lawmakers back to Springfield if legal developments go awry for a controversial construction plan.

The law in question is a sweeping, $31 billion capital plan for roads, schools and bridges. The construction was supposed to be paid for by fee and tax increases on liquor, candy, beauty products and license plates, as well as revenue from newly legalized video poker machines.

But a suit brought by Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, who also owns a liquor distribution company, claims the bill violates a part of the Illinois Constitution that requires legislation to be confined to a single subject.

A state appellate court agreed, saying it could find no "natural and logical connection" between the public works projects and the myriad taxes and fees that are supposed to pay for them. The Illinois Supreme Court has said it will announce a decision Monday.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Quinn suggested that if the law is struck down, lawmakers may have to go back to work.

"If there's a job emergency that affects the work of the people of Illinois, for them to have a good job, we will summon the legislators to the state capital, roll up our sleeves and try and get the job done in a day or two," Quinn said.

The governor also suggested state cigarette taxes could help fund construction if justices strike down the other funding streams for the capital plan.

The state has already collected more than $600 million in revenue off the new taxes and fees. Some of that money is being held in escrow, though it's unclear what would happen to the rest - or to construction projects across the state - if the court rules the law unconstitutional.