CAPITOL RECAP: Multi-year infrastructure plan laid out

CAPITOL RECAP: Multi-year infrastructure plan laid out

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS

SPRINGFIELD –

SESSION UPDATE: Gov. JB Pritzker this week gave an update on the possibility of a special session, outlined new state infrastructure investments and announced a new program for some Illinoisans over age 55.

While the governor quickly announced he would call a special session after the landmark Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade was overturned in June, lawmakers have thus far not scheduled any return to the Capitol.

Last week, Pritzker wasn’t any clearer as to when he expected lawmakers to return to address issues such as abortion rights and gun violence.

“As you know, the working groups are hard at work in the House of Representatives, working on various aspects of legislation, working with advocates, listening to them,” he said. “And so we’re cautiously optimistic that they’ll be able to come up with ideas for us to be able to bring forward in a special session, or in veto session, or some of it may even be in the new year.”

On Tuesday, Pritzker was asked about session again, noting he was in favor of banning high-capacity magazines and assault-style weapons like the ones used in the Highland Park July 4 shooting.

But, he said, measures passed after May 31 need three-fifths supermajorities to become law immediately once signed. Bills passed with simple majorities after that date cannot take effect until June 1 of the following year, or in this case June 1, 2023. Measures passed after Jan. 1, however, can take effect immediately on a simple majority vote.

“So the question is, can they come up with a compromise or bills that will meet my requirements that could get done before the new session, and that’s what I’m looking for,” he said.

The regular veto session is scheduled for Nov. 15 through 17 and Nov. 29 through Dec. 1.

* * *

MAIN STREET IMPROVEMENTS: In his latest celebration of state infrastructure funding, Gov. JB Pritzker stopped in Alton Monday, Aug. 15, to highlight a $106 million state investment in revitalization of main streets across Illinois. It will be met by $109 million in other matching funds, for a total investment of $215 million.

The state was able to double its initial planned $50 million investments in the program to $106 million due to funding made available through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, according to the governor’s office.

The grants will be made through the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in more than 50 communities with a maximum allotment of $3 million.

The funding is aimed at modernizing downtowns, addressing long-awaited infrastructure needs and boosting local economies, Pritzker said.

In Alton, that includes $3 million for the renovation of downtown space for a business incubator. In Rantoul in Champaign County, it included $3 million for downtown improvements, infrastructure upgrades and implementation of a master plan.

Over $2 million will go to Carbondale for downtown arts and entertainment district improvements, while Carrollton, in Greene County, will see $1.9 million for courthouse improvements.

The funding for Rebuild Illinois’ building infrastructure component comes from an expansion of gambling in the state, as well as an increase to cigarette taxes and parking taxes. Those measures have all been in place since 2019.

A full list of downtown revitalization projects is available here.

Pritzker also stopped in Belleville Monday to announce a plan for a new law enforcement-focused campus in partnership with the city of Belleville, Southwestern Illinois College, the Illinois State Police, and Southern Illinois University.

The Southwestern Illinois Justice and Workforce Development Campus will be located at a site which once housed Lindenwood University’s undergraduate program.

The city of Belleville purchased the building through a $3 million DCEO grant, and SWIC was allocated $5.9 million from the Illinois Community College Board to operate the facility.

* * *

SENIOR PROGRAM: On Senior Day at the fair Monday, Aug. 15, Pritzker and representatives from the Illinois Department of Human Services announced the state’s participation in a Medicare- and Medicaid-funded program aimed at giving Illinoisans aged 55 and older in certain communities an alternative to nursing home care.

The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, will be available to Illinoisans age 55 and older who qualify for Medicaid and Medicare in West Chicago, South Chicago, Southern Cook County, Peoria and East St. Louis.

The program provides coordinated medical care and social services to adults who fit those categories and qualify for nursing home care but can safely live at home.

It’s a federal program that Illinois tried to participate in in the 1990s, IDHS Director Theresa Eagleson said, but participation was minimal. Pritzker said 31 states already have such programs in place.

“Seniors who enroll in PACE will receive interdisciplinary and comprehensive services right in their communities right at home,” Pritzker said. “That’s everything from home and personal care to individualize specialty medical care and diagnostic services.”

The governor’s office said the programs are expected to be up and running in Fiscal Year 2024, which begins in July 2023. The funding comes from a redistribution of existing resources within the state’s managed care program.

* * *

INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN: The Illinois Department of Transportation on Friday, Aug. 12, laid out a $34.6 billion six-year spending plan for road, bridge, transit, rail, airport and port upkeep.

It’s the latest multi-year plan backed by the state’s 2019 Rebuild Illinois bipartisan infrastructure law, which doubled the state’s motor fuel tax from 19 to 38 cents per gallon and scheduled it to grow with the rate of inflation. That measure also increased driving-related fees, redirected a portion of the state’s sales tax on motor fuel to the road fund and authorized borrowing to pay for construction projects.

Approximately $8.6 billion has already been spent in the first three years of the Rebuild Illinois plan on road and bridge projects.

It’s a slower pace than laid out in the six-year $33.2 billion spending plan passed in 2019. But IDOT Secretary Omer Osman said he’s hopeful that the pace picks up as several large projects move beyond the initial engineering phase.

IDOT has expanded its engineering staff and lawmakers approved a “design-build” process in Senate Bill 2981 this year to combine the design and construction in a more efficient bidding process, which could also hasten things, he said.

The highway portion of the multi-year plan – a required filing each year for the state’s transportation agency – accounts for $24.6 billion of the planned spending. Of that, $13.3 billion, or 54 percent, is federally funded, just over $6 billion is state funding, $4.1 billion comes from bond proceeds, and $1.2 billion comes from local reimbursements.

The current fiscal year, which began July 1, is scheduled to see $3.7 billion in new construction under the road and bridge plan.

Road projects are underway in all nine of the state’s IDOT districts, from a $54 million interchange reconstruction, bridge replacement and repair on Interstate 80 in Will County, to $100.3 million for improvements on Interstate 24 from Metropolis to Interstate 57 in Massac, Johnson and Williamson counties.

Another near-$10 billion in combined state, federal, local and private spending was laid out for transit, marine transportation, railways and airports. Of that, 59 percent was state spending and 31 percent federal.

Projects in that plan range from construction of high-speed rail between St. Louis and Chicago to airport upgrades to support for major port renovations at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers near Cairo in southern Illinois.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Joe Biden last year allowed Illinois to expand its multi-year plan by $4 billion, Osman said.

* * *

INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING HISTORY: The Rebuild Illinois plan passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Gov. JB Pritzker’s first year as governor, marking the first state capital infrastructure plan in nearly a decade.

Lawmakers from both parties hailed it as forward-thinking for its automatic motor fuel tax increase, raised registration rates for electric vehicles, and the authorization of bonding to pay for construction.

The motor fuel tax and fee increase, contained in Senate Bill 1939 passed 48-9 in the Senate and 83-29 in the House. The spending plan, contained in House Bill 62, passed 95-18 in the House and 53-6 in the Senate. The bonding authority measure, contained in House Bill 142, passed 94-20 in the House and 53-6 in the Senate.

One lawmaker voting against all three portions of the plan was then-Rep. Darren Bailey, the Xenia Republican and current state senator who is challenging Pritzker in the 2022 governor’s race.

Bailey has frequently criticized the motor fuel tax increase, successfully using it as an avenue of attack against challengers in the Republican primary. But he hasn’t offered up an infrastructure funding plan of his own.

Asked for comment on the infrastructure plan and potential alternatives Friday, Bailey’s team issued a statement.

“JB Prtizker’s gas tax hike gave Illinois the second-highest gas tax in the country, and some of the highest gas prices. It is simply not affordable,” spokesperson Joe DeBose said in a statement. “48 states are able to build their transportation infrastructure with lower gas taxes than Illinois. We can do better with zero-based budgeting and reprioritizing spending, but not with J.B. Pritzker in charge.”

Osman, who has worked at IDOT for more than 30 years and became its director under Pritzker, said the motor fuel tax increase means infrastructure improvements can continue beyond Rebuild Illinois’ initial six-year lifespan.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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