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GOP blasts state Senate's OK of $1.5 billion in spending

Published: Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 9:54 a.m. CST

(MCT) — Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday signed into law an extra $1.5 billion in spending for road construction and child welfare investigations, even as Republicans decried the measure as including ill-timed, pork barrel money.

The bill the governor requested includes $25 million for the Department of Children and Family Services and $12 million for mental health programs, but the priciest parts of the legislation were hundreds of millions of dollars for group health insurance costs and the road work that Quinn wants to get moving on in time for the spring construction season.

The legislation sailed through the Democrat-controlled Senate on a 38-15 vote despite a plea from Republican Sen. Matt Murphy to "strip out the pork."

Republicans also squawked over the state giving the impoverished East St. Louis schools $9 million to keep roughly 7,000 students in class — along with the expectation that twice that much will be needed to keep schools open through June of next year.

"You kind of create an incentive to perform the poorest, and we'll take care of you" while schools that perform well don't get a cash infusion, said Murphy, of Palatine.

Though labeled as a $2 billion package by detractors, legislators on both sides said the measure tallied closer to $1.56 billion overall because at least $550 million in health insurance costs was technically counted twice. The more than $700 million in road projects includes $210 million for Cook and DuPage counties.

Madigan gun hearings

House Speaker Michael Madigan will hold public hearings about what type of gun proposals Illinois should advance and review a federal court ruling that would allow Illinoisans to carry weapons in public.

The hearings will be before a House judiciary panel at noon Feb. 19 at the Capitol and 10 a.m. Feb. 22 at the Michael A. Bilandic Building in downtown Chicago.

A December ruling by a federal appeals court in Chicago gave lawmakers six months to pull together a concealed weapons law rather than striking down the state's ban outright. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the speaker's daughter, is asking for a rehearing by the entire 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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