The Blagojevich administration’s efforts to promote a capital spending bill came to Springfield Wednesday, touted as a way to build a $10 million simulated hospital at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

The Blagojevich administration’s efforts to promote a capital spending bill came to Springfield Wednesday, touted as a way to build a $10 million simulated hospital at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.


 


The push came even as House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, again was expressing reservations about the massive gambling expansion proposed to provide the revenue.


 


The administration has been staging events around the state highlighting local projects that could get funded if lawmakers approve the first new capital bill since Gov. Rod Blagojevich took office in 2003.


 


In Springfield Wednesday, labor leaders, educators and others touted the simulated hospital that would give physicians training in situations they will encounter in emergency rooms, operating rooms, intensive care, obstetrics and other areas before dealing with patients.


 


“They can make mistakes on machines instead of people,” said David Carvalho of the Illinois Department of Public Health.


 


The $10 million to build the center — which would be only the second in the state — was included in the spending portion of the capital bill that passed the Senate last week by a 58-0 vote.


 


However, funding for the capital bill relies on revenue from expanded gambling, including a land-based casino in Chicago, two additional riverboat casinos at unspecified locations and more slot machines and other gaming positions at existing sites. That bill passed the Senate, 37-15.


 


It’s the funding part of the capital program that concerns the House, which still must approve the package. Madigan again expressed reservations about the size of the gambling expansion after meeting with Blagojevich and other legislative leaders in Chicago Wednesday. He said the House will hold hearings on the plan at some unspecified date.


 


House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, also has said the size of the gambling expansion might be more than the House can accept.


 


If lawmakers scale back the capital plan, some projects now slated for funding could be delayed or even eliminated.


 


Those attending Wednesday’s event at SIU downplayed potential problems with the gambling bill, instead focusing on trying to get the spending bill passed.


 


“I suspect for many people the funding source is not consequential,” said Judy Erwin, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. “What is important is what the funding source accomplishes. The revenue source the Senate has passed is gaming. Is a dislike for gaming more important than the critical human and physical needs of the state?”


 


“We want to see a capital bill. We don’t feel it is our duty to come up with the funding,” said Brad Shaive, business manager for Laborers Local 477. “We are 100 percent behind whatever they come up with to finance a capital bill.”


 


Michael Boer, chairman of the commission that oversees Springfield’s medical district, also attended Wednesday’s event, even though Blagojevich cut $350,000 from the state budget that would have allowed the district to hire full-time staffers.


 


“Because we don’t have staff doesn’t mean we aren’t concerned with accomplishing the purposes we were created for,” he said. “The most important one is creating health-care-related economic development in the (district).”


 


Boer said the SIU project “fits very well” into the district’s long-range plans.


 


Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.