Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a motion with the Illinois Supreme Court seeking to stay a lower-court ruling that would halt the state’s multi-year $31-billion public-works program. The controversy could imperil transportation, school and other construction projects throughout the state.

A Jan. 26 appellate court decision found the state’s 2009 capital bill unconstitutional, ruling it violated a “single subject” clause of the state constitution. The bill called for supporting public-works projects with tax hikes on liquor, candy and video gambling as well as an increase in license-plate sticker fees.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers supported the measure as a means of spurring construction employment while investing in state infrastructure. Wirtz Beverage Illinois, Schaumburg, filed suit against the bill.

“[The appellate court ruling] jeopardizes billions of dollars of construction projects and tens of thousands of jobs,” says Mark Strawn, lobbyist with Springfield-based Associated General Contractors of Illinois.

Both Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and the Illinois Dept. of Transportation are vowing to proceed with projects funded by the bill. “We’re maintaining the status quo,” says Brie Callahan, Quinn’s spokeswoman.

“Capital projects already in progress will continue,” adds Illinois Dept. of Transportation spokesman Josh Kauffman.

Callahan and Kauffman both declined to cite a legal basis for continuing the program, which includes 100 projects currently out for bid. Sources close to Strawn say the state’s high court could rule on a stay as early as March.