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State Supreme Court Upholds Governor Quinn's Video Poker-Funded $31 Billion Stimulus Program

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A controversial construction spending law, dubbed "Illinois Jobs Now!" by Governor Pat Quinn, received a much-needed shot in the arm Monday as the state Supreme Court reversed an appellate court's earlier finding that it was unconstitutional.

The law, originally approved in 2009, was designed to update and improve the state's infrastructure as well as creating or retaining some 439,000 jobs. The program was said to be funded by increasing taxes on candy, soda, liquor and beauty products, higher vehicle registration fees, as well as legalized video gaming throughout the state. The plan was also expected to lead to higher taxes on cigarettes.

But the program's critics felt the law violated the state constitution's single subject rule, a clause intended to prevent the practice of logrolling, or attaching an unpopular proposal that would never pass on its own to a more popular one, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The statewide legalization of video poker, in this case, is said to be the provision logrolled into the broader legislation. The law allows for local governments to either uphold their own existing laws on video gaming or approve new ones should they desire -- options that some 80 communities and cities, including Chicago, have already taken advantage of.

In the court's Monday ruling, however, state Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke determined that all of the law's contents have a clear tie to the construction program.

"All of the provisions have a natural and logical connection to the single subject of capital projects," Burke wrote in the court's decision [PDF], as quoted by the Sun-Times. "The few provisions that do not directly raise revenue are still related to the overall subject of the act in that they help to implement the other provisions."

Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz had taken an active interest in opposing the plan and challenged it in court because his Schaumburg-based liquor distributor would be adversely affected by the higher fees on liquor, according to theDaily-Herald.

State Senate President John Cullerton lauded the court's Monday ruling in a statement: "The Supreme Court's endorsement of the construction program affirms the bipartisan work done by the General Assembly. This ruling serves as a reminder of just how important the 2009 jobs program was and what the General Assembly can accomplish when politics is set aside and people participate."

Last Week, Quinn had expressed optimism the the law would be upheld by the state's high court and, had it not been protected, he vowed to re-introduce the issue in a special session in Springfield.

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