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Putting Illinois to Work may need more work

Community leaders from Chicago’s West Side are calling on Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to step up public policy to create permanent jobs for those employed by the Put Illinois to Work Program.

The program was initially funded by federal stimulus money when it began nine months ago, but the money ran out at the end of September. Yesterday Governor Quinn announced he was using $47 million from the sale of a bond from the state’s tobacco settlement to subsidize the 26,000 jobs created by the program.

But not everyone thinks the sale of the bonds was a wise decision. Ralph Martire is executive director at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. He said if the state is going to sell the bond, they should use the money to pay down the deficit.

“I think a pretty solid argument could be made that every penny of that $1.2 billion ought to be used to expend towards reducing the state’s current deficit,” he said. “And frankly to spend that over $6 billion in past due bills we owe to providers that have to make their payroll and/or fire people and they’ve already delivered services. So there’s jobs on the line there, too.”

Governor Quinn's decision comes at a time when Congress is deadlocked on whether to extend more funding for the program. Put Illinois to Work could end mid-January unless federal funding is secured.  

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