Illinois bill stalls; would have blocked hand-off of tollway

| 6/15/2007

A bill in Illinois to block any effort to sell or lease the state’s tollway system has been set aside for the year. It was moved to the House Rules Committee where it can be brought back for consideration once the 2008 session begins.

Several Republicans in the statehouse lent their names to the bill because 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 when the state is looking for additional revenue to pay for programs, the GOP lawmakers offered a bill – HB2038 – that would take away any option to hand over state assets to the highest bidder.

Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Addison, said the protection is needed because it would be a mistake to sell off state assets. He stressed fiscal restraint and stopping the spending of money the state doesn’t have, the Daily Herald reported.

The notion of selling or leasing the tollway has been a hot topic in the state since Indiana last year handed over responsibility for the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years. The state got $3.85 billion up front 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.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor