Illinois bill intended to block any hand-off of tollway

| 3/2/2007

Several Republicans in the Illinois statehouse have introduced a measure intended to block any effort to sell or lease the state's tollway system.

Led by Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Addison, the GOP lawmakers said this week they are unconvinced by Gov. Rod Blagojevich's previous assurances that he won't pursue deals to sell or lease the 274-mile system.

To make sure the Democratic governor doesn't go back on his word at a time when the state is looking for additional revenues to pay for programs, the Republicans offered a bill that would take away any option to hand over state assets to the highest bidder.

Reboletti said the protection is needed because it would be a mistake to sell off state assets. He stressed fiscal restraint and wants the state to stop spending money it doesn't have, the Daily Herald reported.

The notion of selling or leasing the tollway has been a hot topic in the state since neighboring Indiana handed over responsibility for the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years. The state netted $3.85 billion for leasing its 152-mile stretch of Interstate 90 to a consortium of foreign companies.

A study completed a year ago said Illinois could reap as much as $24 billion up front if it were to lease the tollway for 75 years.

The bill – HB2038 – is in the House Executive Committee.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor