Illinois briefs: 6/21/2011

*Families get refund after college savings glitch*

Illinois families can get their money back, but nothing more, after a glitch in a special promotion for the Bright Start college savings program.

Bright Start families were recently given the chance to contribute up to $250 and have the money matched. The offer was limited to 2,500 contributions, but there was no way for the public to know when that limit had been reached.

As a result, about 7,300 people contributed and then found out they didn’t qualify for the matching funds.

Treasurer Dan Rutherford said Monday that those people will be allowed to withdraw the money without paying any taxes or penalties. But they aren’t getting the additional matching money, as some people wanted.

A Rutherford spokeswoman says the program must follow the offer’s original rules.

*Sen. Kirk proposing plan to up private funding*

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said Monday he will propose legislation that encourages privatization to create more money for transportation projects nationwide, while his Democratic counterpart in Illinois, Sen. Dick Durbin, wants legislation to keep a closer eye on such deals.

Kirk, Illinois’ Republican junior senator, estimated his plan could spur more than $100 billion to build new highways, railroads, public transportation, airports and ports, in part, by removing federal restrictions on private-public partnerships. He wants to lift barriers to private investment in the nation’s airports, something he said is happening in cities around the world, and make it easier for privatization deals involving the nation’s highways.

Another example, he said, is that states could earn money if they leased out their highway rest stops, as long as parking and restrooms remained free. He said there’s a privately leased rest area in Delaware that’s making $1.6 million annually for the state.

Durbin recently introduced legislation that would require state and local governments to repay federal money used for transportation before such assets are sold or leased to a private company.

“Any deal to sell or lease these assets should be closely examined and include a return on the federal taxpayer investment,” Durbin said in a statement announcing his legislation last week.