Changing the System – Innovation
Led the Fight to Pass Tough Ethics Laws. On December 9th, Governor Blagojevich signed ethics reforms into law, which gives Illinois real, meaningful ethics reform for the first time. This legislation is the toughest, most comprehensive reform package in the history of the state. After a year of hard work, two bills, and co-operation from all four legislative caucuses, and from virtually every part of the Executive Branch of government, Blagojevich passed an ethics package that creates an independent ethics commission, creates Inspectors General with subpoena powers, puts an end to the practice of politicians appearing in taxpayer funded public service announcements, closes the revolving door that allowed state officials to regulate companies one day and go work for them the next, and places limits on how much lobbyists can spend on food, drink and golf to peddle their influence. In addition, the bill mandates ethics training for state employees, prohibits lobbyists or their spouses from serving on boards or commissions, and provides new protections for whistleblowers, among other reforms.
Created the Office of the Inspector General. Governor Blagojevich signed an executive order creating the first Office of the Inspector General for all state agencies and employees of his office. The order also bans retaliation against whistleblowers and created the state’s first Ethics Hotline.
Produced a 20-Year Low State Headcount. By ordering a hiring freeze on all non-frontline employees after taking office, Governor Blagojevich has trimmed the state workforce to its lowest headcount since 1983. In the Governor’s first Executive Order, he required that all hiring and promotion be frozen in order to control unrestrained hiring and to initiate the streamlining of state government.
Created the Rainy Day Fund. Governor Blagojevich helped create a permanent Rainy Day Fund, which can be used in the event of any fiscal challenges facing the state. Even while facing the largest budget deficit in state history, the Governor committed an initial $50 million for this fund, and will continue to dedicate additional state revenues to the fund annually.
Balanced the Budget. Governor Blagojevich addressed an unprecedented $5 billion budget deficit while keeping his promise not to raise the income or sales tax, and still investing nearly $1 billion in new spending in health care, education and public safety. Over $1.5 billion in wasteful spending was cut to help balance the budget.
Streamlined and Consolidated State Agencies and Functions. As part of an ongoing effort to streamline state government and improve efficiency, Governor Blagojevich signed executive orders to consolidate or transfer operations of 14 existing state agencies and five major functions that will initially save approximately $40 million in the next fiscal year.
Ordered Across-the-board Administrative Cuts. Governor Blagojevich directed all state agencies to reduce their administrative budget by an average of 10 percent. He cut his own budget by 15 percent.
Created the Tax Amnesty Program. In response to a broad outreach and marketing effort, the Governor’s tax amnesty program attracted more than 70,000 participants, including both large and small businesses, minority businesses and individuals, which generated almost $500 million. It is the second largest tax amnesty program in American history, and possibly the most successful state amnesty program ever on a per capita basis.
Founded Team Illinois. Team Illinois is an unprecedented effort to help some of the state’s lowest income communities by pooling and focusing state resources to help promote the area’s economic development and improve the local infrastructure. Never before has virtually every state agency worked together to focus specifically on the issues and challenges of individual communities. The initial phase of Team Illinois will focus on the communities of Pembroke Township, Aurora, Savanna, and Cairo.
Ordered Vehicle Fleet Management. On January 14th, Governor Blagojevich issued Executive Order #2, requiring the state’s Central Management Services (CMS) to analyze and recommend changes in the management of the state’s 13,635-vehicle fleet. Since then, the fleet has been reduced by 1724 vehicles, and new policies on how state vehicles can be used have been issued and enforced. Excess vehicles are sold at auction.
Centralized State Procurement. Governor Blagojevich ordered CMS to centralize the state’s procurement of goods and services, leading to an estimated $109 million in savings in FY04, and more than twice that in the preceding two fiscal years.
Implemented Comprehensive Toll Authority Reform. Governor Blagojevich implemented sweeping reforms at the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, including creating an independent inspector general’s office to investigate allegations of waste, fraud and mismanagement.
Consolidated State Facilities Management. Governor Blagojevich has ordered CMS to centralize and consolidate the management and operation of all functions in all state facilities under the Governor’s jurisdiction; from overseeing janitorial services to negotiating leases and analyzing space needs to negotiating statewide multi-million dollar energy contracts. The consolidation of all facilities management in one agency will result in the rationalization of space allocations, lower costs per square foot of state leased and owned space, and significantly reduced cost for in the various categories of state facility expenditure.
Consolidated Legal Contracting. Governor Blagojevich has also ordered the consolidation of the state’s legal contracting. Already, this consolidation has resulted in $650,000 in annualized savings. In addition, all legal headcount associated with functions central to CMS (e.g. procurement, personnel, facilities management) is being consolidated, making CMS the central focal point for all legal decisions in these areas of expertise.
Created the First-Ever Statewide Internal Audit Entity. Illinois now has a single state Internal Audit organization, responsible only to the Governor and focused only on the most critical and statewide risks. On October 1st, just over 100 internal auditors were consolidated into CMS. This involved a reduction of 47 internal audit positions, including 17 management positions at a substantial savings to the state. Being a statewide entity also means that 20 agencies that previously did not have internal audit capacity will be included in any statewide risk assessment.
Consolidated Informational Technology and Telecommunications. Governor Blagojevich ordered the consolidation of the state’s IT services in CMS, tasking the agency with rationalizing and improving this system.
Created the I-BID On-line Auction System. Governor Blagojevich launched the state’s first on-line auction system that provides access to citizens across the state to bid on surplus property. I-BID was launched at the 2003 Illinois State Fair. In the first 90 days since opening bids on-line, I-BID has generated more than $76,000 is surplus sales for 313 items, which is twice the value the state would have generated in the conventional bid process.
Created the Violation Enforcement System. The Toll Highway Authority has instituted a new system to collect lost revenue due to unpaid tolls. Alleged toll violators are now afforded the opportunity for due process via administrative hearings conducted by impartial hearing officers. As of November 22, 2003, the Tollway has sent 823,181 Violation Notices for 3,758,275 violations. Collections to date total $15,409,338.
Developed the TaxNet Online Filing System. During the spring and summer months of 2003, the Departments of Revenue and Employment Security completed and began implementing IL TaxNet, an internet-based tax application. This system allows employers with fewer than 250 employees to electronically file their Unemployment Insurance (UI) reports, and all employers to file their withholding reports and payments for IDOR. All employers can now file UI wage reports and payments and perform inquiries and minor file-maintenance to their UI accounts via TaxNet. Phase 3, to be implemented early next year, permits employers to establish new UI accounts via TaxNet.
Required Quarterly Allotments. State agencies now receive funding on a quarterly basis – instead of on an annual basis -- and the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) now reviews all agency spending requests before each quarter. After each review is completed, GOMB approves, providing funding for those needs at the outset of each quarter. This gives the state the ability to keep spending in-check agency-by-agency, so that they don’t spend beyond their means.
Ordered Monthly Spending Plans. The Office of Management and Budget now meet every month with agency CFOs to review where they intend to spend their dollars for that month. This is another tool that allows the state to ensure that agencies are not spending beyond their means and that spending is in line with revenues.
Developed On-time Bill Payment. The Department of Pubic Aid and the and the Office of Management and Budget created a cash management plan to help maximize the state’s return on its federal Medicaid match and pay our bills in a timely manner. The cash management strategy allows the state to track federal Medicaid reimbursements as they’re deposited to the state’s GRF. Those deposited dollars are then used for the Medicaid program, allowing us to further increase our federal match. The state’s normal federal Medicaid match is 50%, but this match was increased to 53% for five quarters ending July 31st, 2004.
Banned Vacation Day “Stockpiling.” The state had previously allowed employees to rack up vacation days and cash them out when they left state employment. This has led to individual payouts of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Under Governor Blagojevich, state employees now may only carry over a portion of their vacation days, which will realize significant cost savings to the state.
Reorganized the Department of Children and Family Services. In July, DCFS announced its new management structure designed to streamline operations, allow the agency to run more efficiently, and to group services together to better serve the children and families of Illinois. The Department consolidated what had formerly been 17 divisions to 10, which helps facilitate communication between Deputy Directors, managers, and line staff. DCFS is also now focusing much more attention on finding missing children and monitoring the care children receive in residential homes.
Created Opportunity Returns. To fulfill his pledge to create jobs in Illinois, Governor Blagojevich launched a region by region economic development plan called Opportunity Returns. The Governor’s plan is the most aggressive, comprehensive jobs creation effort ever undertaken in Illinois. The plan divides the state into ten regions and, based on the specific strengths and needs of each of these regions, the state pools its resources to match the individual needs of each region.
To ensure responsive communication and lasting efforts, the Governor has created regional teams, including a regional director and account manager that act as the state’s liaison to local business and community leaders. The first Opportunity Returns plan was launched in Rockford for the Northern Stateline Region on October 15th, 2003. Subsequent plans unveiled in 2003 were in the Northwest, Southern, North Central, and Southwestern regions. The Northeast, East Central, Central, West Central, and Southeastern Regional Plans will be announced in 2004. Some highlights from the 2003 Regional Plan are:
- Support Manufacturing Excellence:
- Create a Revolving Loan Fund for Manufacturers to Purchase New Equipment. This fund enables manufacturers to modernize their production capabilities and remain competitive by taking advantage of below market rate loans. Companies will be able to access these funds at their local banks at substantially reduced rates for energy efficiency upgrades and retooling.
- Help Manufacturers Reduce Energy Costs Through Performance Audits. The Governor’s Manufacturing Energy Efficiency Program assists manufacturers conduct industrial energy performance reviews, identifying areas for improvement and ways to save money. The Small Business $mart Energy Program also funds energy audits that helps a businesses’ bottom line.
- Provide Domestic and International Marketing Support to Help Manufacturers Locate New Customers. The state will lead new, sector-specific foreign trade missions for industries throughout Illinois. The regional staff will work with businesses to understand where they want to market their products and provide technical assistance. The state will also develop a Reverse Trade Mission Program to capitalize on foreign offices located in Illinois. Regional and the Illinois Trade Office staff will develop relationships between local manufacturers and foreign trade representatives to encourage direct investment.
- Help Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses
- Buy Illinois is a program in which the State uses its buying power to purchase goods and services made here in Illinois. Each year, Illinois businesses and government agencies spend billions of dollars on goods and services. Just a small shift in in-state buying would boost the Illinois economy by hundreds of millions of dollars. The Governor has directed key state agencies to educate Illinois businesses on how they can compete for government contracts at Buy Illinois Opportunity Fairs across the state.
- Provide Small Business Challenge Grants to Distribute Capital for New Businesses. The Small Business Innovation Research and the Small Business Technology Transfer programs are competitively awarded federal grants that the state will match. These grants can be used by the manufacturing sector, biotech companies and agri-business to stimulate technological innovation and growth opportunities.
- Create the Venture Capital Opportunity Fund to Invest in New Technologies and Growing Businesses. The $200 million Illinois Opportunity Fund (IOF) has been designed as a tool to help bridge gaps in access to equity and venture capital throughout Illinois. The IOF will provide rural regions and other areas typically under-served by conventional venture capital sources. The Governor will aggressively pursue passage of this critical legislation next year.
- Helping Businesses Maximize Access to Capital. The Capital for Tomorrow program is a new initiative that will increase the amount of capital available to stimulate the growth and development of small business. The three key components are expanding Community Revolving Loan Funds, Creating Lines of Credit and enhancing partnerships with Community Development Financial Institutions.
- Creating Entrepreneurship Centers to Provide Grants and Know How to Local Businesses. The centers will serve as the umbrella organizations to coordinate all small business services and programs and provide targeted, accelerated services to companies with high growth potential. They will act as a regional hub for coordinating entrepreneurship development activity, building on the infrastructure of the state’s Small Business Development Center Network.
- Strengthen Education and Jobs Training
- Expand Access to College Degree Programs (NIU, WIU, SIU). The Governor will work cooperatively with the Illinois Board of Higher Education (ISBE), business and industry educational leaders and public officials in the regions to expand access to higher education at four-year college degree program critical to economic development.
- Build Science and Technology Programs in Local High Schools. The state is working cooperatively with business and industry to establish a new program for career and technical education in Illinois high schools to expand career development opportunities. The new program focuses on helping students advance in the areas of science and technology.
- Develop the “21st Century Jobs” Training Initiative to Help Retrain Existing Workers and Provide New Skills for People Seeking Employment. The Governor is creating a new generation of employer-focused customized training programs that are designed to address the needs of large, medium and small-sized manufacturers. The most important part of this initiative is the Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP), which will help keep Illinois’ workers up to speed with new technologies and business practices.
- Expand Infrastructure and Connectivity
- Improve the State’s Transportation Infrastructure, Including New Roads, Locks, Dams, Bridges, Train Stations, and Multi-Modal Facilities. To capture new investment and support existing business growth, the regions need efficient, cost-effective and accessible transportation and public utility infrastructure. The Governor will help the regions improve this critical infrastructure to better position them for today and tomorrow.
- Support Regional Airports. The state will provide marketing assistance grants to communities to highlight their airport’s services to potential new customers and existing customers who may not fully utilize regional airports for their transportation needs.
- Increase Energy Independence and Invest in Renewable Energy
- Promote Ethanol Production. The Governor signed legislation in June 2003 to create the Renewable Fuels Development Program that provides up to $15 million statewide to support new biofuel production facilities of more than 30 million gallons capacity that are built using union labor.
- Invest in Wind Power Generation. Wind farms can benefit local economies and become a lucrative cash crop for farmers. The Governor has committed to providing state assistance for wind farm projects from the Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund.
- Promote FutureGen to Capitalize on Southern Illinois Coal. FutureGen is a 10-year, $1 billion public-private demonstration project to create the world’s first coal-based, zero-emissions power plant. Governor Blagojevich is fighting to land this enormous project, which would be a tremendous boost for Illinois’ coal industry.
- Capitalize on Existing Assets
- Return Brownfields to Productive Use. The Governor is creating a Brownfield Alliance, Illinois’ first, comprehensive strategy for rapidly turning dormant brownfields into places of economic activity.
- Redevelop the Savanna Army Depot. Hundreds of jobs were lost and more than 13,000 acres were idled when the Depot was officially closed in 2000. The Governor will lead the state’s redevelopment effort, working closely with the Jo Carroll Local Redevelopment Authority, while the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency coordinates environmental efforts with federal government agencies.
- Redevelop the Land Along the Illinois River. The Illinois River and nearby parks and lakes are an important regional tourism draw, but these magnificent natural assets need infrastructure upgrades to remain healthy and vibrant attractions. The state will revitalize and develop them to capitalize on their appeal and entice more tourists.
Signed the O’Hare Modernization Program. One of the largest challenges facing aviation in Illinois is the need for increased air capacity, and during 2003, progress towards improving that capacity was made. This summer, Governor Blagojevich signed the O’Hare Modernization Act, which fast tracks the expansion of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Passage of this legislation will create 195,000 new jobs in Illinois.
Paved the Way For Job Creation through Clean Coal. This summer, Governor Blagojevich signed a bill that offers $300 million in new funds to revitalize Illinois’ coal industry, create new jobs, and promote the use of environmentally friendly, cleaner-burning coal technology. In August, Governor Blagojevich also announced $17 million in state coal infrastructure grants to 37 companies that will leverage $128 million in federal funding. This funding will improve production and transportation efficiencies for Illinois coal, create new markets for that coal, and make Illinois producers more competitive in the marketplace.
Fought for the Equal Pay Bill. In May, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation to help ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. Under the law, if a man and a woman do the same job they must be paid the same. The new law expands the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 by covering more workers, providing better enforcement mechanisms, improving public awareness and helping employers eliminate pay disparities.
Championed the Minimum Wage Increase. Governor Blagojevich championed the passage of the Minimum Wage Bill. The minimum wage is currently $5.15 an hour, as a result of this bill it will increase to $5.50 on January 2004 and then to $6.50 January 2005. It has been estimated that the raise will directly benefit 450,000 Illinois workers, or about 6 percent of the state’s workforce, half of who earn the current minimum wage.
Signed the Prevailing Wage Law. This summer, Governor Blagojevich signed several changes to the Prevailing Wage Act, including tightening enforcement provisions, allowing for better enforcement by requiring posting of rates on job sites, increasing requirements for maintenance of records, and consequences when a contractor or subcontractor fails to comply, and establishing bidding requirements for construction projects.
Negotiated the Unemployment Trust Fund (UTF) Solvency Bill. Pursuant to discussions between Business and Labor leaders led by the Governor’s Office, H.B. 810, which reflects the agreed changes to the structure and funding of the Unemployment Insurance program to achieve and maintain Trust Fund solvency, was passed in November.
Ordered Workforce Consolidation. Through Executive Order #11, Governor Blagojevich ordered the consolidation of the state’s job training programs (such as Prairie State 2000) into the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. By doing this, the Governor saved the state $16 million dollars while simultaneously refocusing the state’s job training programs, providing a full continuum of services to workers who want to upgrade their skills.
Promoted the Film Industry in Illinois. Governor Blagojevich appointed a Film Industry Task Force and successfully passed legislation to create tax credits for those who make films in Illinois and hire Illinois workers. This legislation will make Illinois one of the most competitive states in the nation for visual media production. The Governor’s initiative will create jobs for Illinois film workers, and is now expected to draw seven new major film productions to Illinois in 2004, creating 1,281 jobs and $98.4 million in direct expenditures.
Renewed and Expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit. Governor Blagojevich supported the renewal and extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which was scheduled to sunset in 2003. He made the refundable as well.
Helped Families Get Tax Benefits. In 2003 18,400 Illinoisans received free income tax preparation assistance worth $24.7 million in refunds – an increase of 36 percent over last year's totals. The free tax assistance has saved taxpayers nearly $3.5 million in tax preparation fees. This year there will be a new tax preparation center in Rock Island.
Expanded Pre-school for At-Risk Children. Governor Blagojevich included nearly $30 million in his budget to fund a three-year plan to reach 25,000 at-risk children in Illinois, reaching approximately 8,230 at-risk children each year. This expansion has laid the foundation for a universal pre-school program in Illinois. Governor Blagojevich also created the Early Learning Council to help find new ways to help children ages 0-5 learn to read.
Ordered New School Construction. Governor Blagojevich provided $500 million in funding for school construction to address critical classroom shortages and renovate or replace aging facilities in serious need of repair.
Fought for Truth-in-Tuition. Governor Blagojevich held the line on tuition, winning approval of a plan to limit tuition increases for students by locking in tuition costs at the freshman year level. This will allow parents to plan for the cost of college assured that there will not be unexpected jumps in tuition costs.
Created the Illinois Future Teacher Corps. Governor Blagojevich created the Illinois Future Teacher Corps to help attract the best and brightest students to become teachers in our schools. This program awards scholarships of up to $10,000 to students who commit to teach in subject matter with teacher shortages (such as reading) or geographic shortage areas in Illinois schools for five years. Corps members will be encouraged to pursue National Board Certification, a rigorous teacher development program.
Increased K-12 School Spending. Governor Blagojevich increased state funding for local schools in every part of the state. Overall, school funding will increase by $384.5 million. Governor Blagojevich’s Fiscal Year 2004 budget increased the General State Aid foundation level from $4,560 to $4,810 per student, an increase per student of $250.
Expanded Parental Involvement in Schools. In March, 2003, Governor Blagojevich issued Administrative Order #04 to expand the amount of leave time employees can take from 8 to 24 hours to attend school activities for their children.
Provided In-state College Tuition for Undocumented Immigrants. In May, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation that extends in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrant students who attend Illinois high schools for at least three years and graduate from an Illinois high school.
Required State University Budget Accountability. In July, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation that requires university appropriations to be budgeted by line-item, rather than in one lump sum. The Governor’s office also worked with each University’s Board of Trustees to develop spending accountability standards for travel and meal reimbursement, and halted all charter flights. These improvements will help ensure that working families’ hard earned tuition dollars are spent to improve education quality, rather than on bureaucracy and administration.
Making Healthcare Accessible and Affordable
Created the Seniors’ Prescription Drug Discount Card. Under Governor Blagojevich’s leadership, Illinois created the nation’s first prescription drug buying club for 1.5 million senior citizens and the disabled. By buying prescription drugs in bulk, the State can negotiate larger discounts, and pass them on to the club’s members. The buying club is expected to help seniors save as much as 20% on the cost of prescription drugs.
Expanded KidCare Coverage. This summer, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation that will allow 65,000 more children to enroll in the state’s KidCare program over three years. Illinois was one of only three states last year to expand health care coverage for children, parents and seniors. In November, the Governor launched a program called presumptive eligibility, which will ease the enrollment process and make children immediately eligible for KidCare coverage once their parents sign an application stating they meet eligibility income levels.
Expanded FamilyCare Coverage. This summer, Governor Blagojevich also signed legislation that will allow 300,000 working parents to enroll in the state’s FamilyCare program and receive health care. The expansion will take place over three years. Illinois was one of only three states last year to expand health care coverage for children, parents and seniors.
Led the Fight on Canadian Drug Purchasing. Governor Blagojevich has led the fight to convince the FDA to permit states to import prescription drugs from Canada. Prescription drugs sold in Canada are the same as those sold here in the United States in every way but one – the price. Prescription drugs in Canada are 30-50% cheaper than those sold here in the United States. Governor Blagojevich wants Illinois to be allowed to purchase prescription drugs from Canada and pass the savings onto its consumers.
Guaranteed Contraceptive Coverage for Women. This summer, Governor Blagojevich signed a law requiring health care plans that cover prescription drugs to offer contraceptive coverage for women.
Increased HIV/AIDS Funding. As part of World AIDS Day observance, Governor Blagojevich announced the addition of $1 million to the $2 million already budgeted to address the growing problem of HIV/AIDS in minority communities.
Banned Ephedra. In May, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation making Illinois the first state to have banned the dietary supplement Ephedra, which is responsible for over 100 deaths, many among teenage athletes.
Eliminated the Medicaid Prescription Drug Co-payment. This summer, Governor Blagojevich signed SB 1109, which eliminated the generic drug co-pay for Medicaid beneficiaries.
Expanded the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. At Governor Blagojevich’s direction, low-income women between the ages of 35 and 64 who have no health insurance were offered free mammograms, breast exams, Pap tests and pelvic exams. In fiscal year 2003, nearly 17,000 women received free screenings for breast and cervical cancer through the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program; 125 new breast cancers, 20 cervical cancers and 66 pre-cancerous cervical conditions were diagnosed. A total of 234 women were referred to the Department of Public Aid for treatment, and 216 were found eligible for enrollment in Medicaid.
Ordered Maternal and Children’s Health Improvement. Governor Blagojevich convened a Prenatal Health Care Taskforce comprised of experts from across Illinois to assist the Department of Public Aid in revising their prenatal health care services to improve birth outcomes.
Took Over the State-run Anna Veterans’ Home. On August 26, 2003, Governor Blagojevich signed HB 2983 which allowed for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to cancel its contract with Tutera Health Care Services, effective April 1, 2004, at which time the Department will assume the operation of the Anna Veterans’ Home and enhance services.
Expanded Community Care Program. At the Governor's direction, the non-exempt asset eligibility criteria for Community Care Program services will be raised from $10,000 to $12,500, effective January 1, 2004. This change will enable 600 additional seniors to access in-home and community-based services to prevent premature institutionalization.
Funded Adult Day Services. In the past three years, over 21 centers have closed since they could no longer afford to stay in business. Since taking office, Governor Blagojevich approved funding to raise the reimbursement rate for Adult Day Service by $1.50 per hour to $7.02 per hour, or 27% to maintain adult day centers providing Community Care Program services throughout Illinois. The additional funding of $2.9 million has improved the ability for adult day centers to continue providing critical services to frail elderly and respite for their family caregivers.
Expanded Ombudsman Program. As part of a plan to improve the State's Ombudsman Program, Governor Blagojevich enabled the Department on Aging to receive $750,000 from the Civil Money Penalty Fund to enhance the Long Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program. These funds will provide grants to the 13 Area Agencies on Aging for all 17 regional LTC ombudsmen programs. These grants will increase licensed facility visits, form family councils, promote resident-centered care philosophies and resolution counseling, and provide training designed to ensure the quality of life and care for residents living in long term care facilities.
Expanded Childcare Assistance. Governor Blagojevich signed House Bill 294, which expands eligibility for childcare assistance to thousands of Illinois families for the first time since 1997. Under the new law, the income eligibility standard will be adjusted every year to equal 50% of the current state median income. This year, that would mean eligibility for a family of three is increased from those making $24,243 a year to those making $27,933 a year. As a result, an additional 14,000 children will have access to childcare services.
Keeping People Safe
Expanded Terrorism Response Teams. Illinois is now recognized as one of the most prepared states in the nation when it comes to counter-terrorism preparedness. Under Governor’s Blagojevich’s leadership, the capabilities of the Statewide Weapons of Mass Destruction Teams (WMD) were enhanced. The three statewide Weapons of Mass Destruction teams, comprised of specialists from a variety of federal and state agencies, have been trained in neutralizing weapons involving explosives, biological, radiological, chemical materials, and human threat. The WMD Teams are ready to respond to a incident anywhere in Illinois, and were recognized nationally as state-of-the-art in the “Top Off 2” exercise. Other terrorism response teams have been expanded as well. These teams include the Level A Hazmat Team, the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team, and Technical Rescue and Regional Containment Teams.
Funded the Statewide Terrorism Intelligence Center (STIC). In March, Governor Blagojevich announced the funding of Illinois’ first Statewide Terrorism Intelligence Center. The STIC was activated May 12, 2003. It provides 24/7 assistance to law enforcement and other first responders on terrorism related matters. Within 15 minutes of their call to the STIC, law enforcement in Illinois (and nationwide) can access a number of federal, state and local databases that are designed to identify terrorism related activity.
Enhanced Bioterrorism Preparedness. Under the current evaluation system, Illinois became the first state to be awarded the highest rating from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its preparedness to handle the rapid distribution of pharmaceutical and medical supplies in the event of a bioterrorism attack.
Provided Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). In the Illinois Terrorism Task Force budget, Governor Blagojevich designated new funding to implement a plan to ensure that every first responder in Illinois will get Personal Protective Equipment – through federal homeland security funding. The respirators and cartridges provided will help protect our first responders when they respond to a biological, chemical, or radiological incident anywhere in Illinois.
Participated in the TOPOFF 2 Exercise. This May, Illinois took part in the largest terrorism exercise ever conducted in the United States, TOPOFF 2. The exercise involved a biological attack in the greater Chicago area, the takedown of a mock terrorist cell by the State Weapons of Mass Destruction Teams, and a large-scale mutual aid response utilizing the statewide fire mutual aid plan developed through the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. The week-long exercise included 24-hour role-playing, including active participation by the Governor and his senior staff.
Improved the AMBER Alert Program. This spring, the Governor launched the state’s new AMBER Alert System, in conjunction with the National Weather Service (NWS). The new system utilizes technology to disseminate the AMBER abduction information to a much larger audience. Initial alerts are transmitted over the Emergency Alert System (EAS). This is the same system used to notify the public of severe weather alerts. A follow-up fax is provided to the broadcasters and the abduction information is published on the ISP internet home page. The final phase of this enhancement incorporated the release of abduction information to specific e-mail addresses. As of November 25, 2003, there have been 30 requests with 13 activations of the plan for calendar year 2003. All 13 children for whom activations were performed were recovered safely.
Created Project X. Project X is a new, targeted crackdown and public awareness campaign launched by Governor Blagojevich to reduce the abuse, trafficking and crime associated with ecstasy, meth and other club drugs. This plan will triple the investment our state resources in the Club Drugs Task Force, expand funding for undercover investigations of club drug trafficking, target university campuses, improve awareness among teens, young people and their parents about the real dangers of ecstasy, meth and club drug abuse.
Developed the Fire Truck Revolving Loan Fund. Governor Blagojevich championed and signed legislation into law and is seeking funding to create a Fire Truck revolving loan fund that helps struggling fire departments access the equipment they need to protect public safety.
Signed Criminal Justice System Improvements. This summer, Governor Blagojevich signed into law six bills to address serious problems that have raised questions about the integrity of Illinois’ criminal justice system in recent years, including:
- HB 0223: Passage of this legislation made Illinois the first state in the nation to require statutorily that police record all custodial interrogations and confessions in homicide cases.
- SB 30: This bill is intended to end the practice of racial profiling by helping law enforcement assess the extent to which race may be a factor in police stops. Illinois joins fourteen other states in mandating that law enforcement statewide collect data on racial profiling. As of January 1, 2004, officers will be required to document the perceived race of every individual pulled over for a traffic violation.
- SB 423: This bill requires local law enforcement units to automatically expunge the arrest record of a person who is found to be innocent after having been convicted, and requires Illinois State Police and courts to seal all proceedings and prior decisions related to the overturned decision
- SB 788: Offenders who have been arrested for misdemeanors and then acquitted, sentenced to supervision, or had their conviction reversed will now be allowed to ask the court, local police, and State Police to seal their records after three years if they are not convicted or put on supervision for other offenses during that time.
- HB 3316: Requiring the Department of Human Services to include the Department of Corrections in their efforts to help hard-to-place individuals, including ex-offenders, find jobs. The new program is intended to reduce the rate of recidivism among ex-offenders by helping them find steady employment.
- HB 569: This legislation creates procedures for certificates of relief and good conduct which ex-offenders can use to demonstrate to potential employers or licensing authorities in 15 specific professions that he or she is viewed to have good conduct and should be relieved from disabilities relating to his or her crime.
Worked Towards Death Penalty Reform. The Governor worked with the legislature on a death penalty reform bill, which instituted a number of reforms including: prohibiting the execution of people judged to be mentally retarded; requiring prosecutors to disclose promises made to witnesses in exchange for their testimony; permitting the court to decertify a death penalty case if the sole evidence is uncorroborated testimony of a jailhouse informer or accomplice; setting in place improvements to police practices and pretrial investigative efforts; and requiring the court to consider a defendant’s background as a victim of extreme emotional or physical abuse in passing sentence and whether he or she suffers from a reduced mental capacity.
Created the Illinois Military Families Relief Fund. The Governor created the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, which provides grants to families of Illinois National Guard members and Illinois reservists called to active duty in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Launched Delinquent Parents Tracking. The Governor launched the Deadbeat Parents website in November, displaying the state’s most egregious delinquent child support cases. The percent of located employers of non-custodial parents increased by approximately 15%, due to improved processing of new information.
Enhanced Missing Children Identification and Location. In May 2003, 409 children could not be found. Through close cooperation with local law enforcement, enforcing existing requirements for agencies to report children who are missing, and creating a single point within the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to coordinate with agencies and law enforcement, 331 of the 409 children have since been found, a major improvement over DCFS efforts in years past. As a result of these experiences, on November 1, 2003, DCFS established a permanent child location unit. The unit will coordinate all cases of missing wards between child welfare providers and law enforcement. In addition, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children presented three workshops to workers and police on issues related to missing and runaway children.
Initiated Re-Opening Process of the Sheridan Correctional Center. Governor Blagojevich dedicated funding to reopen the Sheridan Correctional Center, which will house a model drug and reentry program to reduce drug crime, improve public safety in our communities by addressing the tragic impact of drug- and drug-related crimes, and help address the fact that nearly 50% of all offenders who are released from prison are re-incarcerated within 3 years.
Signed the Primary Safety Belt Law. This July, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation allowing police to stop drivers for failing to wear their seatbelts. This law could help the state reach the 80% mark in safety belt usage, which would qualify the state for more than $30 million in additional federal funds for safety and road improvements. Statistics show that if safety belt usage in Illinois is increased by 15%, 138 fewer fatalities will occur each year, and just two months after he signed this bill into law our state’s seat belt usage rate had risen almost 6%.
Created Operation Spotlight. Governor Blagojevich’s comprehensive parole reform plan will double the number of parole agents required to supervise approximately 35,000 parolees over four years from the current 370 to 740. This initiative will ensure tighter supervision standards of parolees and parole agents will be empowered to provide parolees with every incentive not to return to a life of crime.
Developed the New State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). Illinois’ application for competitive grant funding for a new state-of-the-art State Emergency Operations Center received the second-highest award in the nation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. Illinois was approved for $9.3 million out of a total pot of $50 million for the 50 states and six territories. Site selection and planning are under-way and we are on target for the federal timeline of 18 months to complete this project, which will provide the state with a more efficient way to manage all disasters.
Fought for Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention. In July, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation that forbids anyone convicted of criminal elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation from inheriting from their victim, unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the victim knew of the conviction and still wished their property to the offender. Paramedics and emergency medical technicians were added to the list of mandated reporters and provides that physicians, dentists and dental hygienists who fail to report elder abuse will be referred to the appropriate disciplinary boards.
Promoted Work Zone Safety. This fall, Governor Blagojevich ordered the Department of Transportation, State Police, and the Toll Highway Authority to find new ways to improve work zone safety, including new legislation that enhances fines and penalties for those caught speeding in work safety zones.
Contained Monkeypox. All the preparation for an outbreak of a foreign animal disease paid off in the spring of 2003 when monkeypox, a little-known disease never before diagnosed in North America, infected people and animals in six states, including Illinois. Employees of the Agriculture Department’s bureaus of Animal Health and Animal Welfare, the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Police, and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency moved swiftly to contain it and, most importantly, track the owners of pets exposed to the virus to inform them of the possible danger.
Implemented Serious Changes in Child Support. The Department of Public Aid Child Support Enforcement Division has made major changes, which prompted an 8.1 percent increase in the percentage of current collections, and a 5.9 percent gain in the percentage of support orders enforced. These changes include the consolidation of customer Service phone lines, offering answers to the most frequently asked questions 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, via an automated voice response system; the intake process is being revised so that new cases are being handled more efficiently; and shift of the State Disbursement Unit to a private contractor, which processes over 500,000 child support check each year, while saving the state $9 million per year.
Signed the Gender Violence Act. This Act attaches a more concrete definition to the term “gender-related violence” and declares it a form of sex discrimination. Gender-related violence now encompasses one or more acts of violence or physical aggression satisfying the elements of battery that are at least partially based on a person’s sex; a physical intrusion or physical invasion of a sexual nature under coercive conditions satisfying the elements of battery; and a threat of either of the above acts which causes “a realistic apprehension that the originator of the threat will commit the act.” The bill also establishes that any person subjected to gender-related violence may bring a civil action for damages, injunctive relief, or other appropriate relief against an individual who was personally involved in the act or in some way encouraged its committal.
Made Roadway and Bridge Improvements. In 2003, 1,561 miles of roadway improvements and 319 bridges were improved, exceeding that expected, despite reductions in headcount of nearly 8 percent from 2002. A total of $2.3 billion in road and bridge projects have been accomplished, including $1.9 billion on the state system and $400 million on the local system.
Led the CREATE Project. Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) partnered in one of the most ambitious modernization projects in railroad history as it joined forces with private sector railroads, the City of Chicago, and other local agencies in 2003 to form the CREATE project. CREATE is a $1.6 billion public/private partnership with an unparalleled level of cooperation between private industry and government. The goal is to improve rail freight flow through the City of Chicago and the surrounding regions. IDOT committed $10 million to begin design work to ease rail freight congestion in the Chicagoland area. This rail freight congestion has long plagued the area, creating traffic tie-ups for local commuters, increasing wear and tear on local roads and causing countless lost revenue due to shipping delays.
Hired the Tollway Inspector General. The Governor announced the appointment of James Wright as the new Inspector General for the Tollway. The new Inspector General's duties include investigating any possible fraud, waste and mismanagement in the day-to-day operations of the Tollway, its employees and contractors.
Developed the Traffic and Incident Management System.
Tollway travel times are now made available online with our Traffic Incident Management System tied into www.gcmtravel.com
. The web site provides travel times for the Gary-Chicago-Milwaukee corridor, and provides enhanced travel information for our customers.
Developed I-PASS Marketing. The Toll Highway Authority’s marketing of I-PASS was expanded to employment centers and festivals to allow customers to sign-up and receive their I-PASS transponders immediately. The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has two mobile I-PASS units that travel to businesses along the Tollway, such as Abbott Labs, Walgreens, Oak Brook Tower, Baxter, Lions Club International, car dealerships and malls, such as Gurnee Mills and Yorktown Mall.
Created the I-PASS Expansion Project. In August, Governor Blagojevich announced the I-PASS expansion project to add 37 I-PASS dedicated lanes at 22 locations. I-PASS Only lanes at ramp plazas are now complete, more than a month ahead of schedule. I-PASS Only lanes are now available at 27 ramp locations on the North-South, Northwest, East-West and Tri-State Tollways. Of the original 37 I-PASS dedicated lanes, 35 are now open.
Protecting the Environment
Reduced Smog-Forming Pollution. Under Governor Blagojevich’s leadership, Illinois became the first state in the Midwest to implement statewide regulations that will reduce emissions of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) by 56% from most of the state's power plants. NOx contributes to smog formation during the summer “ozone season.” The new rules took effect May 1, 2003. As a result of the regulations, 103 electric power plants across the state will reduce the amount of NOx they emit into the air by more than 63,000 tons—the equivalent of the NOx emitted by the more than 4.5 million on-road vehicles in the Chicago metro area.
Launched Clean School Buses. In October, Illinois EPA launched the Governor’s Clean School Bus Program to significantly reduce emissions from existing diesel-powered school buses. The multi-faceted program includes assisting Illinois school districts in replacing existing buses with cleaner models, retrofitting existing buses with advanced emission control technologies and implementing cleaner fuels. The program, which also has an important educational component, will result in a healthier environment for Illinois’ school children and improve air quality in and around school buildings and throughout local communities.
Created the Used Tire Program. Governor Blagojevich launched a new program in which the Illinois EPA has conducted 105 used tire cleanup activities during 2003 and continues to remove and recycle or recover energy from used tires. In total, $1,014,670 has been spent to collect 6,746 tons of tires—the equivalent of approximately 539,703 tires or 540 semi-truck loads of tires. To support that effort, “Project TREAD” (Tire Reduction, Education and Disposal) was launched under Governor Blagojevich’s administration, to recruit citizens and local officials to report improperly discarded tires to the Illinois EPA and/or to local police. A toll-free telephone number and a web site were provided to make it easier for the public to contact the Agency.
Reached the Landmark Clean Air Settlement. On April 9th, an unprecedented joint enforcement effort between Illinois, the federal government and 13 other states and counties resulted in a landmark Clean Air Act settlement with grain industry giant Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM). This settlement grew from an enforcement action initiated by Illinois EPA, and the Agency played a lead role in expanding the case nationwide. The settlement covers operations at 52 plants in 16 states and cost the company an estimated $340 million. ADM will implement sweeping environmental improvements at plants nationwide that will eliminate at least 63,000 tons of regulated air pollutants a year.
Created C2000 Ecosystems. This program brings together the interests and participation of local communities along watersheds in a partnership to enhance and protect watersheds through assistance from the Department of Natural Resources. The Eco-Watch Program trained 156 new Citizen Scientist volunteers to monitor the state's ecosystems (53 for streams, 68 for forests and 35 for prairies). Volunteers monitored 334 sites in the state's ecosystems (236 streams, 71 forests, 27 prairies).
Added New Open Lands. During the past year, at Governor Blagojevich’s direction, the Department of Natural Resources added over 7,000 acres to its ownership. Acquisitions included land purchases with Open Land Trust, Capital Development, C2000, Park & Conservation, Pheasant Funds & Natural Areas Acquisition. Regional greenways and trails plans were completed and initiated for ten counties.
Strengthened Watershed and Facility Planning. Taking on an issue that has remained unresolved from previous administrations, Governor Blagojevich directed the Illinois EPA to strengthen the Facilities Planning Area (FPA) process, which evaluates the water quality impacts of new or expanded municipal sewage treatment plants. The Agency has initiated a more comprehensive watershed approach that will look at all types of discharges, such as urban and agricultural runoff and industrial discharges, and will include groundwater as well as surface water protection. Several stakeholder meetings have already been held, and completion of a proposed watershed-wide framework for better water quality protection is expected by early next year.
Led the Mercury Initiative. Under the Governor’s leadership, the Illinois EPA has begun this process by removing mercury containing products and wastes from the personal environment of children through household hazardous waste and school waste collections. Over the last nine months, Illinois EPA has arranged for chemical waste collections at 117 schools. Its contractor has collected 282 containers of waste (55 gallon drums each) for proper disposal. Of the 282 fifty-five gallon drums, 34 drums were exclusively mercury containing items. This includes approximately 300 pounds of elemental mercury and 66 pounds of mercury containing compounds.
Launched the First Lady’s Beautification Initiative. This initiative involves the landscaping and planting of wild flowers along state highways, parks and toll ways through the use of staff and inmate work crews to promote tourism and economic development in Illinois.
Created the Ethanol and Biodiesel Fuel Promotion Plan. This summer, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation to extend ethanol tax exemption for 10 years, and to create a $15 million grant program to encourage renewable fuel facilities development and to spur growth in Illinois corn and soybean industries.
Signed the Grain Code Change. This summer, Governor Blagojevich also signed legislation to restore the solvency of the state’s grain insurance fund, which provides the most comprehensive coverage in the nation. The legislation establishes assessments on producers and lenders that would be used to replenish and build the Grain Insurance Fund, and increases licensing fees for elevator operators.
Signed the Producer Protection Act. This new legislation signed by Governor Blagojevich specifies provisions that must be met in production contracts between farmers and agricultural companies. These provisions, which take effect January 1, 2005, require contracts to be written in plain language using commonly understood terms, guidelines for when a contractor may unilaterally terminate an agricultural production contract, and a four year limit to file claims.
Created the Governor’s Advisory Council for Farmers and Farm Families. The Governor appointed a 12-member council of farmers and agriculture leaders to assist him in maintaining Illinois agriculture’s competitiveness in global markets and position the industry for a profitable future. Members will work to spur the growth of new agribusinesses and complete infrastructure improvements that are essential to deliver farm commodities to markets. They will also improve farm families’ access to technology and health care. The council also aspires to raise awareness about the importance of agriculture in order to preserve farmland and foster community support for an expansion of the livestock industry. The council will work with government in an effort to make sure agriculture regulations permit farmers to keep producing food.
Promoting Affordable Housing
Ordered the Unified Housing Initiative. A major legislative housing accomplishment for 2003 was codified i