Supreme Court rules on $31 billion capital bill

July 11, 2011

by Sam Hudzik and Tony Arnold

Download Story
(AP File/Seth Perlman)
A state road construction sign appears along Interstate 55 in preparation for road work to begin, near Springfield, Ill.

Updated at 11:58 a.m.

Illinois' Supreme Court has ruled that a statewide construction program is constitutional. This reverses an appellate court ruling that threw the $31 billion-plan into doubt.

The appeals court's decision in January no doubt caused stress headaches for the governor, lawmakers and everyone with a job dependent on the construction plan. That court found that the bill violated a clause of the state Constitution that requires legislation be "confined to one subject."

But in the state Supreme Court's much anticipated final word on the legislation, all seven justices sided with Gov. Pat Quinn and the bipartisan leadership in the legislature, which endorsed the plan.

Justice Anne Burke wrote that "capital projects" - including those for roads, schools and bridges - is a "legitimate single subject." She wrote that the rest of the bill - including new taxes and expanded video gambling to pay for the projects - have a "natural and logical connection to that subject."

The suit was brought by Rocky Wirtz, owner of the Chicago Blackhawks and a liquor distribution company. Wirtz objected to the new taxes on liquor used to finance the construction projects, many of which are already in progress.