Illinois’ $31 billion public works bill could be wiped out

Appellate Court ruling puts everything on hold, including billions of dollars in road and bridge construction

News Chicago Tribune January 27, 2011
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A liquor distributor could serve as a buzz kill for a $31 billion public works bill passed by the state of Illinois late last year.

The legislation, which legalized video poker in bars, called for tax increases in liquor, candy and beauty products, and also raised the fees for license plates, titles and driver’s licenses. But on Tuesday, Jan. 25, an Appellate Court scratched the new law because it believed politicians did not package the deal correctly. The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Wirtz Beverage Illinois, which is run by Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz. The outfit claims the state is imposing higher taxes on wine and hard liquor than on beer. Now billions of dollars in road and bridge construction spending could go up in smoke. The state plans on filing an appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court.

Illinois already has almost $4 billion worth of highway money committed to 3,965 projects, and was planning on borrowing another $5 billion to ramp up activity heading into the 2011 building season.

If the state does not win its appeal there is a chance the bill could be killed. After the recent passage of a 66% increase in the state income tax, lawmakers could be nervous about burdening the voters any further.

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