J.B. barnstorms behind capital plan

Rebuild Illinois budgets record $45 billion for statewide infrastructure

Gov. Pritzker kicks off his day Friday in East St. Louis touting the record $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan. (Twitter/GovPritzker)

Gov. Pritzker kicks off his day Friday in East St. Louis touting the record $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan. (Twitter/GovPritzker)

By Ted Cox

Gov. Pritzker barnstormed across the state Friday touting the record $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan.

Pritzker signed the capital bill and kicked off his day in East St. Louis, then continued on to the Lincoln Depot State Historic Site in Springfield and held another event in the afternoon within sight of the infamous Interstate 80 bridge across the Des Plaines River, set to be replaced as part of $1.2 billion in the plan earmarked for multiple bridge replacements and road upgrades in Joliet and Will County.

“With this historic $45 billion capital plan, we’re fixing decades-long problems, creating good jobs, improving communities for the next generation — and doing it together, across party lines,” Pritzker said in a statement. “The Rebuild Illinois plan transforms our state’s approach to transportation infrastructure, finally treating our roads, bridges, and railways like 21st-century investments and not relics of the past. We’re also making critical investments in our higher-education institutions, our crime lab and veterans’ homes, early childhood centers, and expanding broadband access to communities across Illinois. With these investments, we’re creating and supporting hundreds of thousands of new jobs in our state. This is more than an infrastructure plan. This is a job-creation plan the likes of which our state has never seen.”

It was actually a series of bill signings, as Pritzker approved House Bill 62 on so-called horizontal infrastructure allotting $33 billion to transportation, $3.5 billion to education projects, $1 billion to the environment, and $420 million to statewide broadband expansion.

Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1939 to pay for it, doubling the motor-fuel tax to 38 cents a gallon and increasing title fees and vehicle-registration fees, and House Bill 142 to float bonds based on those added revenues. He also signed Senate Bill 690 legalizing sports gambling and allowing additional casinos in Chicago, Waukegan, Rockford, the south suburbs, Williamson County, and Danville to fund so-called vertical infrastructure through a $1-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax to $2.98 as well as additional parking taxes. It also creates the Illinois Works Jobs Program Act, including the Illinois Works Preapprenticeship Program and the Illinois Works Apprenticeship Initiative.

Senate President John Cullerton joined the governor in praising how it was backed by both Republicans and Democrats in a bipartisan effort for a state sorely in need of investment in infrastructure.

“This bipartisan success sends a strong message that Illinois is moving forward, and we are moving forward together,” Cullerton said. “Because of this effort, there will be better roads, better bridges, better schools, better health, and better opportunities for the people of this great state. This has been a team effort and it’s been an honor to be part of it.”

Speaking on behalf of Republicans, Sen. Don DeWitte of St. Charles said, “The sustained investment in our transportation and vertical infrastructure remains vital to ensure that our state continues to be attractive and viable to our residents, business partners and future investors in our state's economy.”

“We spent months traveling this state and learned more than I thought possible about the infrastructure needs in various communities,” said Sen. Martin Sandoval of Chicago, who spearheaded the legislative effort as chairman of the Transportation Committee. “The result is a comprehensive package that takes into account the testimony we heard and fairly invests in communities in every corner of the state.”

Both business and union interests also praised the statewide investment.

“Manufacturers need a modern infrastructure system to compete in today’s global economy, and this capital infrastructure program builds a bridge to the future,” said Mark Denzler, president of the Illinois Manfacturers’ Association. He called it “a game-changing investment in our infrastructure that improves Illinois’ economic competitiveness.”

Rebecca Mason, executive director of the Infrastructure Council at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said that, combined with the so-called Lockbox Amendment passed three years ago and legislating against shell-game funding transfers, it “will ensure our transportation funds will repair our aging infrastructure.” She also praised “pro-business reforms,” including the data-center tax incentive, which “will spur private investment in Illinois businesses and our local economies.”

“The investment the state of Illinois is making in capital construction projects will have deep and lasting effects across the state,” said Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “Fixing and improving the state’s vital infrastructure is the obvious direct benefit, but the economic boost creating tens of thousands of jobs in our communities — small and large — will put us on a path to prosperity.” He predicted, “The investment will reverberate for many years into the future with the education and economic-development opportunities a highly functional infrastructure provides.”

It has been a decade since the last state capital bill. According to a paper issued last year by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, state Department of Transportation roadways have deteriorated over the last two decades due to lack of repairs and the failure to pass a major capital-spending bill. ILEPI charged that 20 percent of IDOT roads were rated in “poor” condition, up from 8 percent in 2001, and 31 percent of all bridges across the state, almost a third, were more than 50 years old, with 8 percent of IDOT bridges considered “backlogged,” meaning overdue for replacement.

“Our roads, bridges, transit providers, ports, rail systems, and ability to grow bicycle and pedestrian accommodations have been neglected for too long,” said acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “Because of Gov. Pritzker’s leadership and the General Assembly’s bipartisan support of transportation, IDOT is back in the business of building a premier transportation network that creates jobs and improves quality of life.”