Illiana Expressway

Northwest Indiana residents examine a large map of the proposed Illiana Expressway at Lowell Middle School during the planning process for the 48-mile toll road.

SPRINGFIELD | Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said Tuesday he will suspend plans to build the Illiana Expressway in response to the budget plan approved by Democrats.

With the spending blueprint approved in the General Assembly last week more than $3 billion out of balance, the governor said he must begin taking steps now to prepare for the start of the fiscal year July 1.

The governor promised to shut down work on the Illiana Expressway -- a proposed toll road connecting Interstate 55 in Illinois with Interstate 65 in Indiana.

"In light of the state's current fiscal crisis and a lack of sufficient capital resources, the Illiana Expressway will not move forward at this time," the administration stated.

Indiana House Transportation Committee Chairman Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said he received a memo from the Indiana Department of Transportation on Tuesday informing him that Illinois was indefinitely suspending work on the Illiana Expressway.

Soliday said Rauner and IDOT will come to rue the day they indefinitely suspended the project, because traffic volumes will steadily build on Interstate 80/94. He said that traffic will reach a choke point when the Panama Canal widening is done, sending huge volumes of truck traffic to Chicago as new mega-ships unload at coast ports.

"It's like an oil change with the Illiana," Soliday said. "It's either pay for it now or pay for it later. They'll just pay more later when they have to build it."

However, INDOT said it will take the $50 million already set aside for the Illiana Expressway project and use it to get the Interstate 65 widening project underway, Soliday said. INDOT had intended to have that project in the Lowell area done in conjunction with the Illiana Expressway.

"If you look at the volume of traffic now on I-65, we just can't keep up with it," Soliday said. "So if we can get one project done that needs to be done, that's great."

Rauner also said he intended to close a prison work camp and shutter up to two juvenile detention centers to help close the Illinois budget gap.

Included in a list of closures and program cuts is the threatened shutdown of the Hardin County Work Camp in Cave-In-Rock. Such a move would require 180 inmates to be moved within a system that is already overcrowded.

An estimated 60 work camp staff would be affected.

Rauner also ordered the Department of Juvenile Justice to target one or two juvenile prisons for closure. The system has a capacity of 1,200 residents, but only 700 beds are occupied.

The laundry list of cuts is the latest salvo in the ongoing war of words between the Republican chief executive and Democrats who control the General Assembly.

Democrats led by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton say the budget can be balanced with a tax increase, but Rauner wants a property tax freeze, worker compensation reform, term limits and other business-friendly changes designed to promote job growth.

“Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton and the politicians they control refuse to act responsibly and reform state government,” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said. “It is time they come to the table with Governor Rauner to turn around Illinois.”

Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said the budget plan reflects Democratic priorities to provide vital services and invest in the middle class.

"If the governor shares that goal, then he is invited to work with us to develop a full plan to fund our shared priorities in education, public safety and community services. Unfortunately, today's actions signal that the Governor would rather slash child care, services for troubled youth and senior care rather than work on a bipartisan budget solution," Phelon said.

A spokesman for Madigan didn't immediately respond to a request for reaction.

After missing a May 31 deadline to come to an agreement on a budget, the House is set to return to action in the Capitol Thursday. The Senate returns Tuesday.

In addition to the closures, Rauner also put the state airplane fleet in the cross-hairs.

He said the department will ground all non-emergency use of the state passenger planes, which provide a key link for state officials shuttling between Chicago and Springfield.

At the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Rauner said he plans to close five state museums to visitors, including the state museum in Springfield, a state-run artisans shop near Sesser and Dickson Mounds in Lewistown, home to an archaeological display of Native Americans remains.

He also said the agency will not award any Open Space Land Acquisition Development grants in the new fiscal year, even though those grants are not financed by income tax dollars.

Other grants on the chopping block include tax credits used to lure businesses to Illinois and film tax credits used to bring companies to Illinois to make movies and television productions.

State grants that help people pay their utility bills also will be cut off. Federal money will still be available to help pay for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The plan also calls for freezing all vehicle purchases for the Illinois State Police, even though those are largely funded through an additional charge on driver's license fees, rather than general revenue.

Rauner also said he would begin the process of using income limits to determine whether seniors qualify for programs through the Department on Aging and he plans to charge co-pays for parents using the childcare program operated by the Department of Human Services.

Times Business Editor Keith Benman also contributed to this story.