By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- A supplemental budget of more than $2 billion passed in the Senate Thursday by a 38-15 margin and Gov. Pat Quinn has signed it into law.
"This important measure will allow us to begin construction projects this spring, putting Illinois workers back on the job repairing bridges and improving roads," Quinn said.
The bill will provide $675 million for Illinois Department of Transportation projects, $600 million in health insurance, $12 million for mental health grants and $25 million to complete annual funding and more abuse investigators for the Department of Children and Family Services.
Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, voted for the bill.
"I thought it was important to do it as quickly as possible. Bid letting is coming right up for the spring and summer road construction. Now we're going to be able to fund more of that work," Sullivan said.
Senate Republicans generally voted against the plan, as did GOP members in the House on Tuesday. Republicans said the bill contained more spending than they could support while the state owes $9 billion in overdue bills.
"There's some decent things in there," said Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine. "We felt there was an opportunity to reach common ground on some smaller pieces of the package, and that would have been a good start to the session, to look for common ground rather than ramming through more spending on a partisan basis."
But the rush was on because unanticipated state and federal revenue will allow the Illinois Department of Transportation to pump $675 million into additional road and bridge projects this spring.
"The projects are going to be let in March so we had to move expeditiously to make sure we move forward on them and get them built," said Sen. Dan Kotowski, the Park Ridge Democrat who sponsored the bill.
Democrats also noted that $600 million in health insurance was anticipated in the budget passed last spring, but had to be fully appropriated in this bill.
"They gave a report that this maintains a balanced budget and we're still living within the cap on spending that we agreed to earlier," Sullivan said.
The supplemental appropriation is an annual procedure to shore up parts of the state budget running short of funds halfway through the fiscal year.
This year's plan included new uses for about $54 million in general revenue that wasn't spent for the programs for which it was originally intended. For example, $25 million saved from Quinn's closing of correctional facilities would move to the Department of Children and Family Services to avoid layoffs and bolster the ranks of child-abuse investigators.
Republicans complained about a $9 million check to East St. Louis schools. The long-troubled district of 6,500 students needs money to meet payroll in the coming weeks, education officials said. But that much money would have required a change in state law because it limits such emergency payments to $1,000 per student, a ratio the East St. Louis allocation would exceed, said Matt Vanover, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education.
The state board has control of the district and is working on solutions for its budget woes, but more state money will be needed next fall, Vanover said.
The Associated Press provided information for this story.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since its original posting.