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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 1999

51% FUNDING PLEDGE FOR SCHOOLS, 'ILLINOIS FIRST', 15-20-LIFE HIGHLIGHT RYAN'S FIRST LEGISLATIVE SESSION

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today praised the General Assembly for working with him during the 1999 spring legislative session to enact a wide-ranging agenda that increases funding for education, initiates a massive re-tooling of the state's infrastructure, enhances public safety, boosts economic development efforts and helps protect the environment.

"I am very proud of the accomplishments that the General Assembly and I have made during this session. We have worked very hard together to find agreement on a number of issues and concerns that affect this state. In my book, this session was a tremendous success," Ryan said.

"My thanks go out to all legislators, and especially the legislative leaders, for their willingness to put partisanship aside in favor of the best interests of the people of Illinois. As I had hoped, the last legislative session of the 20th Century has prepared Illinois well for the first years of the 21st Century."

Heading the list of accomplishments is the enactment of a $42.8 billion state budget which guarantees that at least 51 percent of the state's new revenue goes to education and workforce training.

The final budget agreement dedicates an increase of $503 million in new general funds to schools and job training -- or 57 percent of the growth in general funds revenues and 54 percent in the growth of new general funds appropriations.

"I pledged last year during my campaign to devote 51 percent of all new revenues to education and workforce training and with the help of the General Assembly we have fulfilled that pledge and surpassed it," Ryan said. "Education is our top priority and will remain our top priority."

Ryan's $12 billion, five-year "Illinois FIRST" initiative, the largest infrastructure construction and repair program in state history, also was accepted by legislators. Illinois FIRST will rebuild roads, bridges, mass transit systems, schools, water systems and sewers across the state, help protect and enhance recreational and natural areas and improve the quality of life in every part of Illinois.

Revenues to support the Illinois FIRST bonding program will be generated by moderate changes in the state's vehicle registration fees, an increase in the state's vehicle title transfer fee and increases in the state's liquor taxes, all approved by lawmakers. The Illinois FIRST initiative was created in Senate Bills 1018, 1028, 1066 and 1203.

"Illinois FIRST will help prepare this state for the future," Ryan said. "It will keep this state in the forefront of the nation's transportation system, will make classrooms better for our children and help large and small communities attract new residents and new businesses."

Ryan's "15-20-LIFE" legislation adds jail time automatically to the sentences for certain felonies if these crimes are committed with the use of a gun -- 15 years for possessing a gun, 20 years for firing a gun and 25 years to life for firing a gun and causing death or great bodily harm. The 15-20-LIFE legislation is contained in Senate Bill 1112.

"The 15-20-LIFE law will send a strong message to criminals who use a gun to commit a crime. When we catch you, you're going to prison for a long, long time," Ryan said.

Other accomplishments of the 1999 legislative session include:

EDUCATION

  • Elementary and Secondary Education. Passage of a total $5.6 billion budget for elementary and high schools and $1.1 billion to fully-fund categorical programs for the first time in state history.

  • Higher Education. A $2.4 billion budget for higher education: $127 million increase that includes $5 million for Merit Recognition Scholarships, full-funding for the Illinois Veterans Scholarship Program and first-ever scholarship funding for part-time and adult continuing education. The budget also includes a record $161 million for needed building repairs and construction at the state's college campuses.

  • New Teachers. Passage of a budget allocation of $5 million in state funds and $50 million in federal funds to start hiring 2,500 new teachers -- the first installment of 10,000 planned new hires over the next four years.

  • "Safe to Learn." Passage of Attorney General Jim Ryan's "Safe to Learn" program that creates grants to improve safety measures on school grounds and efforts to reach at-risk teens; requires the reporting and psychological evaluation of students caught with guns on school grounds; requires adult charges against students aged 15 and older who are charged with aggravated battery with a firearm at a school activity; and increases penalties for selling firearms to children under the age of 18. Senate Bills 757 and 759, House Bills 1194, 1195 and 1201.

  • Tuition Tax Credit. Passage of a tax credit for parents who pay out-of-pocket expenses to a private or public school to support their children's education -- 25 percent of a family's qualified school-relate expenses, with a maximum credit of $500 per family. Senate Bill 1075.

  • Success in Reading. A $29 million budget increase for school reading grants, summer bridge programs and early childhood initiatives to help all students learn to read at grade level by the end of the third grade.

    ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TECHNOLOGY

  • EDGE Tax Credit. Passage of a new economic development tool that will encourage companies to create at least 25 new jobs in Illinois. Firms will receive a tax credit equal to 3 percent of the salaries of new employees from Illinois. Senate Bill 40.

  • Technology. A $100 million allocation includes $17 million to continue work on the Illinois Century Network, the creation of the Illinois Technology Enterprise Corporation to assist in the formation of high-tech businesses and the initiation of the "True Grid" digital infrastructure network, which links the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in Urbana with Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago. The Grid will form a solid foundation for research and business applications.

  • Tourism. A $14 million increase in the tourism promotional budget for the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, one of the largest promotional efforts in the country.

  • Linked Development & "Prime Sites." Three new incentives totaling $66 million to help attract and create jobs in Illinois -- a five-year, $30 million fund and an $11 million account allocated to economically depressed communities; and a five-year, $25 million program to help attract companies and firms to prime business locations throughout the state.

  • Workforce Development. Passage of a 41 percent increase, or $7 million, in the state's Industrial Training Program. This budget will provide $24.2 million in grants that will help 11,700 people train for a career or learn upgrade their job skills.

    PUBLIC SAFETY

  • CAP Law. Passage of a Child Access Prevention law that holds adults responsible with a misdemeanor when a child under the age of 14 gains unsupervised access to a firearm and causes great bodily harm or death. Illinois is now one of only 17 states with a CAP law. Senate Bill 177.

  • Double Parole Officers. Passage of a $2.7 million budget increase to hire an additional 66 parole agents to better monitor inmates released from prison on parole. Ryan has proposed 113 new parole officers for next year's budget.

  • Hate Crime Commission. Creation of the first statewide Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes, which is charged with helping cities and towns, neighborhood organizations, the religious community, schools and others better understand and fight instances of hate crime. Executive Order 4.

  • New Police Officers. Funding for 100 new state troopers.

  • New Prison Beds. Operational funding for 3,500 new prison beds, including a new women's prison.

  • Domestic Violence. A 62 percent, $8 million increase in funding for the expansion of domestic violence prevention and intervention services.

    HUMAN SERVICES, CHILDREN & FAMILIES

  • HMO Patients Bill of Rights. Ending two years of stalemate, passage of legislation that levels the playing field between health care patients and their health maintenance organizations which ensures emergency treatment without prior approval, prevents the use of "gag" orders, creates a grievance procedure, includes a guarantee that only health care providers can deny care and requires the confidentiality of patient information.

  • KidCare. Strengthening of the state's efforts to enroll children in the KidCare child health insurance program and a $5 million enrollment effort. In three months under this new effort, sign-ups have jumped 35 percent. Approximately 191,000 children in Illinois who do not have health insurance are eligible for the program.

  • Futures for Kids. Initiated a new community-based prevention and intervention program for at-risk children called "Futures for Kids," under the direction of First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan. The program focuses on early intervention for pre-school children, family and community involvement, school success and safe neighborhoods. This includes a $5 million allocation for the Teen REACH after-school program that tutors at-risk children and helps fight gangs and substance abuse.

  • Women's Health. Passage of a $3.2 million budget for women's health programs -- more than doubling of resources. Also, the state's 65 separate women's health programs have been brought under the coordination of Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood.

  • Child Care. Passage of a 20 percent increase of $85 million to help support and expand child care services throughout Illinois, especially for families moving from welfare to work.

  • Human Service Provider Increase. Passage of $264 million in various cost adjustments for social service providers: A base COLA of 1.6 percent to cover inflationary increases in costs and variable additional increases for several provider groups based on the particular needs of each provider community.

  • Substance Abuse. Increased funding and issued an executive order that places more importance and emphasis on the Office of Substance Abuse and Alcoholism within the Department of Human Services. This allocation includes a $10.3 million budget for community-based substance abuse programs and $2.5 million for juvenile programs. Executive Order 9.

  • Adoptions. Passage of an increase of 43 percent or $46 million for adoptions or permanent guardianships, which will serve an estimated 6,000 new placements in FY 2000.

  • Mental Health. Passage of a $7 million increase for community-based mental health programs and a $9.3 million increase for 276 new Community Integrated Living Arrangements; and a $6 million increase for community placements.

    NATURAL RESOURCES, ENVIRONMENT & AGRICULTURE

  • Open Lands Trust. Passage of the most ambitious open space initiative in state history -- the Illinois Open Lands Trust, a four-year, $160 million program to help state and local governments purchase, preserve and protect recreation areas and open space. The initial installment for FY 2000 is $40 million. Senate Bill 1087.

  • Large Livestock Operations. Ending two years of stalemate, passage of legislation that sets up stringent guidelines for the creation and operation of large-scale livestock facilities. These farms must meet an eight-point list of citing criteria under the watch of local and state officials before construction can begin. The criteria include odor control, disruption of local traffic, the treatment and disposal of wastes and the prevention of potential water and ground contamination. Senate Bill 1199.

  • Agriculture Research. Passage of a $3 million funding increase for the Council on Food and Agricultural Research, which promotes food safety and agriculture science at the state's universities.

  • Illinois River. Passage of a $15 million allocation for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or CREP, to help reduce soil erosion and protect 232,000 acres along the Illinois River. The state's four-year commitment to CREP is $48 million, which will leverage nearly $202 million in federal funds.

    TRANSFORMING GOVERNMENT

  • Women's Commission. Re-established the Commission on the Status of Women, under the honorary chair of Lt. Gov. Wood. The commission's goal is to develop and promote an end to economic, legal, social and equity barriers that hold women back. Executive Order 1.

  • Technology Office. Created the Office of Technology within the governor's executive staff to coordinate leadership over the state's efforts to meet the so-called "Year 2000" problem. Executive Order 5.

  • Statewide Performance Review. Created the Office of Statewide Performance Review under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Wood to conduct a comprehensive review of every state program, initiative, board, office, regulation and law to weed out the unnecessary and the duplicative. Executive Order 7.

  • Strategic Planning. Created the Office of Strategic Planning to help develop a long-range plan for state government that will oversee coordination of services, future performance review and public accountability. Executive Order 8.

  • Campaign Ethics Reform. In a first-ever move for a governor, banned employees under the control of the governor's office from contributing to the governor's campaign funds or soliciting donations to those campaign funds. Executive Order 2.

  • Tollway Reform. Passage of legislation that requires the Illinois Toll Highway Authority to present a budget annually to the General Assembly for review. House Bill 2772.

    ARTS, HISTORY & CULTURE

  • Pullman. Passage of a $10 million allocation to begin development of the Pullman National Historic Site in Chicago.

  • Lincoln Library. Continued support for construction of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield.

  • Children's Museums. Passage of $350,000 for a new exhibit at the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier and $5 million to help with the relocation of the Kohl Museum in Chicago's Northern suburbs.

  • Hemingway Home. Passage of $875,000 for the restoration and development of the Ernest Hemingway birthplace in Oak Park.

  • Arts Funding. Passage of a $1.6 million increase in funding for arts programs in every area of Illinois and a 50 percent increase for the Illinois Humanities Council to a total of $750,000.

    INITIATIVES IN PROGRESS

  • "Rainy Day" Fund. Create a designated savings account within the state budget that would be used to shore up government spending in the event that the Illinois economy declines and revenues begin to shrink.

  • Career Scholarships. Creation of a $1,000 scholarship for all high school graduates who do not go on to college but continue their education and training in a vocational program, apprenticeship, or job development effort.

  • Child Support Enforcement. Centralize the enforcement of child support orders within the Office of the Attorney General.

  • Consolidate Workforce Development. Centralize and better coordinate the state's various workforce and job training programs under one roof. These programs are currently separated between six different agencies.

  • Smart Growth. An on-going multi-faceted approach to better organize, plan and coordinate future development in the state's metropolitan areas that focuses on mass transportation improvements, the redevelopment of urban bownfields, economic development and natural resource preservation.

  • Seniors. Planning has started on a statewide Summit on Aging to occur during 1999.

  • Agency Reorganization. Continued study of the workings of the Department of Human Services and the Department of Public Aid.

  • ###

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