As the second year of the 100th General Assembly wrapped up last week, lawmakers left Springfield having passed more than 600 bills and a balanced budget. Gov. Bruce Rauner didn’t waste any time before signing the budget into law on June 4.
Also this week, special emphasis was placed on the authorization of critical funding for the Veterans Home in Quincy, and $241 million toward projects to improve mobility of freight throughout the state were announced this week.
Governor Rauner signs the budget into law
Gov. Rauner signed the $38.5 billion spending plan for Fiscal Year 2019 into law on June 4, and while Senate Republican lawmakers said they recognize that the new state budget is not perfect, they emphasized the compromise will ensure vital state services remain funded, including health coverage for children and senior citizens, as well as other priorities that save lives and protect the public.
Republican legislators emphasized that more than $1 billion in spending was cut from the “auto-pilot” expenditures that would have resulted without the changes made to current law. With their input, what would have amounted to more than $500 million in annual spending was eliminated or reduced.
Notably, the budget adds an additional $350 million for the new K-12 education evidence-based funding formula, directing critical financial support to schools across Illinois and reducing reliance on local property taxes.
Additionally, high priority was placed on directing support to Illinois’ colleges and universities. A two percent across-the-board increase for higher education operations will help reduce pressure to raise tuition, and the new merit-based scholarship program AIM HIGH will receive $25 million from the state and a matching $25 million from universities to help retain Illinois students. This budget also funds at FY 2018 levels the important Monetary Award Program (MAP), which provides funding for low-income college students.
It’s also important to note that the budget includes capital appropriations for road, bridge and infrastructure projects. Illinois is at the crossroads of America, and Senate GOP lawmakers said improving and maintaining Illinois’ transportation infrastructure is particularly important to creating jobs, helping employers and guaranteeing safer roadways and bridges.
Budget includes $53 million investment for the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy
Importantly, the newly-signed budget authorizes $53 million in startup funding to make repairs to the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, including making improvements to the water filtration system, and also beginning construction on a new facility.
Additionally, some of the revenue will go to purchase and renovate the Sycamore Healthcare building, which will temporarily house veterans until the reconstruction of the Illinois Veterans Home is complete. The state will wrap-up the purchase of the former Sycamore Healthcare building on June 8, with renovations beginning immediately, according to the Governor.
Supporters underscored the temporary housing is an important first step to ensure the residents at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy receive the best care possible, saying the funding brings the state one step closer to creating the state-of-the-art facility that the veterans deserve.
During his appearance in Quincy on June 5, the Governor also introduced Brig. Gen. Stephen Curda as the new director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Announcement of IDOT Competitive Freight Program grant recipients
This week, the Governor announced a $241 million investment in freight mobility, with 23 projects to receive federal-financed grant dollars to help improve mobility of freight throughout Illinois to spur long-term congestion relief, improve safety and boost commerce.
Many of the projects specifically work to reduce bottleneck congestion and improve intermodal connections so that freight activity will be safer, and goods and services will move more efficiently throughout the state.
The federal funds secured through the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Competitive Freight Program were awarded to local, state and federal agencies, as well as private entities.
Click here for a list of all Competitive Freight Program grant recipient projects.