The following accomplishments are the top initiatives of the Blagojevich Administration. After the first 25, the accomplishments are broken down into the following categories: Creating Jobs, Improving Education, Making Healthcare Accessible and Affordable, Improving Services for Children in the State’s Care, Keeping People Safe, Homeland Security, Helping Veterans, Streamlining Government and Cutting Waste, Protecting the Environment, and Promoting Affordable Housing.
1.) Long Term Tollway Improvement Plan Creates 252,000 Jobs. Cities, towns and their residents will benefit from the Governor Blagojevich’s $5.3 billion Tollway infrastructure investment. The Tollway improvement is expected to attract new businesses, resulting in about $20 billion in economic benefits -- including 252,000 jobs. The tollway will make it easier for businesses to locate along the Tollway and attract customers and distribute their goods and services. Plan highlights include:
· Constructing the Much-Anticipated I-355 South Extension. Governor Blagojevich broke ground on the I-355 Extension this fall and the construction is scheduled to be completed by 2007. The proposed four-to-six-lane extension of I-355 south for 12.5 miles from the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) to I-80 will reduce travel times by 20 percent and improve access to job-rich areas. As one of the fastest growing counties in the state, Will County's population is projected to exceed 1.1 million by 2030. The I-355 South Extension will serve as a critical transportation link that will bolster Northern Illinois’ transportation network by providing direct access that will help people get from their homes in Will County to job rich areas in Cook and DuPage Counties. An estimated 35,625 construction jobs will be created and the Will County Center for Economic Development estimates that the South Extension will lead to the creation of 150,000 manufacturing, distribution, white collar, and service jobs by the year 2030.
· Rebuilding and Widening 90% of Tollway Roads. Over the next 10 years Governor Blagojevich plans to rebuild and widen 90% of the Tollway’s roads, 65 percent of which have not been reconstructed since they were built in the late 1950s. That will result in a smoother ride for motorists and serve as an economic engine for Northern Illinois.
· Converting Roads to Open Road Tolling to Reduce Congestion. I-PASS improvements made in 2003 have already reduced the average Tollway commute time by as much as 10 minutes. The congestion relief projects scheduled for 2004 and in the Long-Range Plan could reduce travel times another 15 minutes. To further eliminate delays caused by toll plazas, the Tollway is planning the conversion of 15 mainline toll plazas to Open Road Tolling, which eliminates tollbooths for those with I-PASS. This would be the nation’s first and largest conversion of a barrier-type toll collection system to a barrier-free system, which would allow I-PASS customers to drive through toll plazas at highway speed.
· Reducing Emissions on the Illinois Tollway. By eliminating the need to wait in line and stop to pay tolls, open road tolling would improve air quality with a 41 percent reduction in carbon monoxide emissions, according to studies by the Illinois Tollway.
· Creating 252,000 jobs. Every dollar invested in highways yields almost $4 in economic benefits and growth, according to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, 2003. Upon completion of the Tollway’s $5.3 billion investment, 252,000 jobs, approximately 127,000 direct jobs and 125,000 indirect jobs, will have been created.
2.) Launched First-in-the-Nation Prescription Drug Importation Program -- I-SaveRx.
Gov. Blagojevich launched I-SaveRx on October 4th
and extended an invitation to other states to join the program. After three other states joined -- Wisconsin, Missouri, and Kansas -- I-SaveRx now provides more than 26 million residents in four states with access to lower-priced prescription drugs through a network of more than 60 inspected and approved pharmacies and wholesalers in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Consumers in the member states can look up I-SaveRx prices and start the enrollment process by calling toll-free 1-866-ISAVE33
, or visiting www.I-SaveRx.net
. Participants in the I-SaveRx plan can save an average of 25 to 50 percent on the cost of the most common medications used to treat chronic conditions. 2,000 people have obtained their prescription drugs through I-Save, and over 30,000 people have downloaded the forms and begun the process.
3.) Invested Nearly $1.5 Billion In Opportunity Returns Economic Development Efforts. Opportunity Returns, Gov. Blagojevich's effort to coordinate resources regionally to create and retain jobs, has resulted in nearly $1.5 billion in state infrastructure, training and economic development dollars being invested throughout Illinois. Among the projects announced from the first round of Opportunity Returns multi-year regional plans, 43% are completed or are completed and being continuously managed by the agency. Examples of significant regional investments include:
- West Central Region: NTN Bower Expansion - The expansion signals NTN's commitment to Macomb and will create 400 new jobs by April 2006.
- North Central Region: Excel Crusher and Excel Foundry -These two companies have received EDGE tax credits of $300,000 resulting in 30 new jobs. EDGE tax credits will help to retain quality manufacturing jobs at companies such as Excel which bring a solid economic return to the region.
- Northeast Region: Ameriquest Mortgage Company – Ameriquest Mortgage Company is a national mortgage lender, committed to helping people achieve financial freedom and their home ownership dreams. By providing almost $25 million in support, Governor Blagojevich was able to help Ameriquest expand its loan servicing operation in the Schaumburg area, creating 1,500 new jobs over the next two years. The company is also pledging to bring another 600 jobs to Illinois through its affiliate in Rolling Meadows, Argent Mortgage Company, within the next three years.
- Southwest Region: Keep Scott Air Force Base Open -- Governor Blagojevich is leading a coordinated effort with the Illinois Congressional Delegation, other elected officials and local leaders to prevent Scott Air Force Base, Air National Guard Bases in Peoria and Springfield, and the Rock Island Arsenal from ending up on the Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list. The Governor has traveled to Washington D.C. to present Illinois’ compelling case for why the state’s bases should continue serving our country with distinction. The Governor met with the Hon. Nelson Gibbs, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, who is the service's chief installations officer, and Lt. Gen. Daniel James III, the Director of the Air National Guard. These bases contribute more than $2.5 billion to the state’s economy each year and support nearly 70,000 jobs.
- Northern Stateline Region: Removal of the Cherry Valley Toll - The removal of the Cherry Valley Toll has dramatically reduced both southbound and northbound auto and freight traffic congestion coming off of interstate 90 and interstate 20/39.
- Northwest Region: Rock Island Arsenal - It is one of many military installations being evaluated under the BRAC process. The Arsenal employs more than 6,000, supports another 12,000 and has a regional economic impact of more than $855 million. The hiring of a military affairs specialists by the state to represent the Arsenal is extremely important to the economic health of the region and our nation’s security.
- Southern Region: AISIN Electric of Illinois (Auto parts manufacturing facility) – AISIN Holdings manufactures auto parts for Toyota, General Motors, Mitsubishi, and others. The project is making a difference in the unemployment levels throughout several southern counties by putting union building trades employees to work in construction, as well as creating 120 new quality jobs that are needed in this region.
- East Central: Supervalu: Supervalu is opening a new warehouse that will create 100 jobs within 2 years. The new facility will bring Illinois a $21M investment with $15 an hour wages and a possibility of doubling in size within 2-3 years.
- Southeast Region: Lincolnland Agri-Energy Ethanol Facility – The Lincolnland Agri-Energy Ethanol Facility is a model for the development of an ethanol facility in Illinois; it is a cooperative owned by the farmers of Crawford and surrounding counties, allowing them to not only benefit from the higher corn prices, but to share in the profits of an entity which for the first 5 months of operation has been enormously successful. Lincolnland is a $58 million facility, which may produce as much as 50 million gallons of ethanol on annual basis. It has created 32 excellent jobs in a region where quality jobs are difficult to find, new business opportunities for other local businesses such as McDaniel Trucking out of Newton, which is doing substantial hauling for the plant and a market for locally grown corn.
- Central Region: Springfield Medical District Support: The Governor has announced a $300,000 grant for the Springfield Medical District. The support will include funding a master development plan and marketing services for the district. The Medical District is viewed as Springfield’s best opportunity for future economic development growth, given the medical foundation already in place, including two major hospitals, a world-renowned heart surgery institute, a medical school, more than 40 clinics, and a full complement of other medical facilities and services.
4.) Attracted $1.2 Billion in Private Investment to Illinois, Retaining and Creating 22,000 Jobs. In 2004, Governor Blagojevich successfully attracted almost $1.2 billion in private investment in Illinois. By completing a number of successful business investment deals Governor Blagojevich was able to attract and retain employers like Astellas, U.S. Cellular, Target, AISIN Electric, PETsMART and Hospira, and create and retain almost 22,000 jobs here in Illinois:
- Astellas: The State of Illinois successfully assisted Fujisawa Healthcare, Inc. in its North American headquarter merger with Yamanouchi. Fujisawa and Yamanouchi now operate under the new name Astellas. Without the administration’s assistance, Astellas would have relocated to Paramus, New Jersey. Astella’s headquarters will create 75 jobs and retain 350 jobs within 2 years and lead to $42 million in private investment in Illinois.
- PETsMART: PETsMART is the nation's leading specialty retail supplier of products, services & solutions for the lifetime needs of pets. PETsMART was considering leasing a new build-to-suite 1,000,000 square foot distribution center in Illinois or Georgia. By using a smart investment package, Governor Blagojevich was able to convince PETsMART to lease its distribution center in LaSalle County. As a result of the new distribution center, 214 new jobs will be created and Illinois will receive $30 million in private investment.
- Hospira: Hospira is a global specialty pharmaceutical and medication delivery company in Lake County dedicated to developing, manufacturing and marketing products that improve the safety and efficiency of patient care. By providing incentive programs, Governor Blagojevich was able to secure Hospira’s future in Illinois, which will lead to $42.5 million in private investment and the job retention and creation of 400 jobs in both the R&D and HQ facilities.
5.) Made Major Reforms to the Illinois Education System. After creating and fighting for its passage, in September of 2004 Governor Blagojevich signed the Education Reform Act of 2004 (SB 3000). The bill made sweeping changes to education in Illinois. Major components of the Act include:
· Reducing the length of ISBE members’ terms from six years to four years and allowing governors to remove board members for incompetence, neglect or malfeasance. Future governors will appoint five board members at the onset of their terms and four more appointments two years into their terms.
· Giving the Governor and legislature more control over the board’s financial management by subjecting the State Board to line-item budgeting for the first time. Line-item budgeting and new agency divisions specifically outlined in SB 3000 allow the board to better focus on helping schools educate children and improve services such as early childhood education.
· Provides for the creation of shared service centers, allowing the state to work with school districts to pool their resources to save on administrative costs and a new purchasing program to allow local schools districts access to statewide contracts where they might find lower prices. To assist local school districts with their health care costs, the law authorizes districts to participate in the state’s prescription drug purchasing plan.
· Encourages the development of new and affordable initiatives that allow the state to tangibly improve the way children are educated.
6.) Balanced a $2.3 Billion Budget Deficit Without Raising Income or Sales Tax while Increasing Investments in Education and Health Care. After a long overtime session, Governor Blagojevich was able to pass another budget that balanced a $2.3 billion deficit without raising the income tax and without raising the sales tax while investing over $1 billion in new funding for education and health care. Statewide, schools will benefit from a $389 million increase in education funding, 8,300 more children will receive the opportunity to attend pre-school, 150,000 Medicaid patients will keep their current health coverage, and 76,000 more children and working adults will finally gain access to health care coverage.
- Historic Increases to K-12 School Spending. Faced with $7.3 billion in state budget deficits over the last two years, Governor Blagojevich has provided more than $1 billion in new money during this time for education, representing one of the largest two-year increases to education spending in Illinois history. In his first year in office, he fought for $400 million in additional, recurring education funding, and in year two he won $389 million in targeted funding (a total increase of $364 million). These increases have yielded a $404 increase in the per-student General State Aid foundation level.
- Expanded Access to Health Care. By optimizing federal matching funds Governor Blagojevich was able to expand FamilyCare by 56,000 working parents and increase eligibility for KidCare - adding 9,500 kids in FY04 with an additional 2,000 kids added through October of current fiscal year. Illinois is one of the only states in the country to expand, and not cut access to health care—and it was nationally recognized as the top state in the nation for expanding health care coverage to uninsured families by the prestigious Kaiser Family Foundation. They also ranked Illinois second in the nation for expanding coverage to uninsured children. The Governor Blagojevich also increased Child Care coverage by $29 million to insure no families would lose their eligibility and also increased Supportive Housing for the Mentally Ill by $2.7 million over last year.
- Cut Over $3 Billion in Non-Essential Spending in FY04 and FY05. Facing a combined budget deficit of $7.5 billion, Governor Blagojevich eliminated over $3 billion in spending unrelated to education and health care, including across-the-board 4% cuts in FY05, and administrative cuts of 10% for every state agency. Governor Blagojevich has cut his own office's budget by nearly 20% in two years.
- Lowest Headcount in 30 Years. With a hiring freeze, a new early retirement package, and a lot of discipline, the State of Illinois has fewer employees than at any time since 1972, the first year when headcount numbers were recorded in the state. In 2002, 69,000 people worked for the state. At the end of 2004, that number is at 59,000. By doing more with less, the Governor has been able to balance a two year combined deficit of $7.3 billion without raising the income or sales tax while investing over $2 billion in new funding for education and health care.
- Agency Spending Reduced Two Years in a Row. More than 30 agencies under the Governor’s control had their budgets reduced, moving funding from administrative lines and non-essential areas over to programs that fulfill agencies’ core missions.
7.) Received National Award from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government for Homeland Security Preparedness. This year Illinois was the recipient of the prestigious Mitretek Innovations Award in Homeland Security for Illinois’ State Weapons of Mass Destruction Teams (SWMDT). Illinois’ SWMDT was cited as a program for other states to study and replicate because of its well-led integration of skills and capabilities to provide effective statewide protection and response to emergencies in real time. The national award is the first to recognize the most effective homeland security programs. It is sponsored by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Mitretek Systems.
8.) Increased the Number of Frontline Officers at the Illinois State Police (ISP). In February, Governor Blagojevich launched a plan to increase the number of frontline police officers by 500. In 2004, 153 new frontline officers were added.
9.) Expanded Preschool. In 2004 Governor Blagojevich committed $30 million new dollars to the Early Childhood Block Grant, for a total increase of $60 million since taking office. That money helps move closer to the goal of making high-quality preschool available to 25,000 more children.
10.) First Minimum Wage Increase Took Effect. Last year Governor Blagojevich signed the Minimum Wage Law Bill (SB600) that increased the minimum wage in Illinois in two phases starting on January 1st, 2004. The Department of Labor (DOL) successfully implemented the first of the two-part increase in the minimum wage law, which increased from $5.15 to $5.50/hour and will increase to $6.50/hour on January 1, 2005.
11.) Retained Highest Bio-Terror Strategic National Stockpile Rating: Illinois retained the nation's highest rating ("Green") from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to manage the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) during an act of bioterrorism or other mass casualty event. In 2003, the State of Illinois received its initial Green for preparedness to request, receive, distribute and dispense material from the SNS. Annually, all states are required to participate in comprehensive CDC audit of their preparations to manage the SNS. Illinois is one of only six states to achieve this preparedness rating.
12.) Launched a 24-Hour Missing Child Unit. Governor Blagojevich and the Department of Children and Family Services launched a new 24-hour Missing Child Unit. The unit assists in finding missing and runaway children and provide safety as quickly as possible. The effort created new law enforcement/DCFS protocol and quality training programs that have trained people throughout the state. As an indication of results, the number of missing wards has decreased from 374 in November 2003 to 286 in November 2004.
13.) Continued Success with TEAM Illinois. TEAM Illinois - a partnership among state agencies, the private sector, and community stakeholders -- was created last year to bring infrastructure and opportunity to disadvantaged communities across the state. Entering into its second year, TEAM Illinois has invested almost $4 million dollars in redirected funding and human and operating capital into these four communities. Never before have the resources of nearly every Illinois agency been pooled and concentrated in an intensive effort to turn around communities facing tough challenges. The results have produced infrastructure repairs, employment opportunities, health care facilities and other capacity-building mechanisms. To date, TEAM Illinois has completed half of the original 263 action items and are working together to accomplish the remaining tasks over the next two years. TEAM Illinois accomplishments include:
- Opened a Carroll County Public Health Office for the first time in over 35 years.
- The Savanna Youth Entrepreneurship Program grads created two new businesses, the Emmett Spaulding Distribution Company and the Courtyard Café.
- IDOT advanced the timetable for paving and resurfacing of Main Street in Savanna
- Created an ongoing jobs program in Pembroke. To date, 46 people have found jobs, 40 are in employment and training programs, and 30 are enrolled in adult education/GED classes.
- Pembroke has created a Steering Committee that brings together the village, township, county and state to work in a coordinated fashion to promote the further development of the community.
- Secured a grant from FEMA under the Homeland Security Act to finance the purchase of the new fire truck and equipment for Pembroke. In cooperation with South Holland and Dolton, secured additional equipment to meet the 10% matching funds requirement for the grant.
- East Aurora received a DCEO grant of $146,00 for a high-tech school to work program.
- Alexander County’s SMART Transportation system received a federal Reverse Commute Job Access Grant of $125,000.
- DCFS and DHS collaborated to re-open Delta Daycare Center in Alexander County.
- East Aurora received a $247,000 DNR grant for the redevelopment of Solfisburg Park.
- Pembroke Library lost its certification 18 months ago, but with DHS technical assistance, has been reinstated into the Illinois Public Library Association.
14.) Continued To Reduce the DNA Backlog. Throughout calendar year 2004, the Illinois State Police (ISP) made good on Governor Blagojevich’s plan to eliminate the DNA backlog by using both grant funding as well as state funding to analyze DNA cases in-house as well as outsource DNA cases. From January 2004 through October November 2004, the seven ISP DNA laboratories analyzed 1,431 DNA cases in-house. During this same time period, the ISP outsourced 1,574 DNA cases. The DNA backlog dropped from 1,063 cases as of January 1, 2004 to only 159 cases as of December 1, 2004. This effort resulted in 503 hits in the FBI’s Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS) to either convicted offenders or other unsolved cases.
15.) Kaiser Foundation Cites Illinois as the Nation’s Leader in Providing Health Care for Low-Income Children and Parents. Illinois is continuing to lead the nation in the battle to deliver health care coverage for low-income children and parents, despite the state’s historic budget crisis. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured recognized Illinois as the top state in the nation to increase the number of working parents covered by the FamilyCare program by an astonishing 227 percent, far outpacing all other states. Enrollment climbed from 12,703 parents to 41,257 during the year. The report said Illinois was second in the nation from June to December of 2003 in terms of increasing the number of children covered by KidCare, known nationally as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). KidCare enrollment jumped from 76,928 to 92,144, a 20 percent increase.
16.) Aggressively Enforced the Equal Pay Law. Last year, the Governor fought for and signed legislation to help ensure that women who do the same work as a man receive the same pay. After the Equal Pay Act was enacted, the Department of Labor began an aggressive enforcement campaign to ensure the new law was being adopted in the workplace. Since then, the Department of Labor has established a toll-free hotline to receive equal pay questions and complaints; printed and distributed posters summarizing the law’s requirements for display at worksites; printed equal pay brochures in English and Spanish for distribution to interested individuals and groups; and updated the Department’s website with an Equal Pay link containing a copy of the law, newly adopted administrative rules, a fact sheet summarizing the law’s requirements, downloadable worksite posters, instructions and forms for filing complaints, and copies of the Governor’s equal pay press releases. To date, the Department has received 919 inquiries on its toll-free hotline, and 61 cases have been filed (23 of which are open and under investigation and 38 are closed).
17.) Increased Benefits for Illinois Soldiers Killed in the War on Terror. This fall, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation that establishes significant, additional death benefits for Illinois soldiers killed in the Global War on Terrorism. The State of Illinois will now offer the survivors of soldiers killed in the line of duty monetary benefits that are in addition to those already provided by the federal government and the state. The new law makes available to families of soldiers killed in the line of duty during Operations Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom death benefits varying from a minimum of $118,000 to more than $250,000 from the state. The Illinois Court of Claims will have exclusive jurisdiction on how much each family receives.
18.) Opened the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
On October 14th
, Governor Blagojevich opened the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is the new home of the former Illinois State Historical Library, which since 1889 has been the world’s foremost institution for research about all aspects of Illinois history. Contained within the Library is a treasure trove of 12 million documents and artifacts relating to all eras of Illinois history. These include more than 10.5 million manuscripts, 175,000 books, 90,000 reels of Illinois newspapers on microfilm, 6,000 maps and broadsides, and 200,000 prints and photographs. The Library’s 47,000-item Abraham Lincoln collection is the largest assemblage of pre-presidential Lincoln material in the world and is used for virtually every publication, broadcast program or film about Lincoln or the Civil War. The Governor also launched the Abraham Lincoln President Library and Museum website www.alplm.org
. The presidential museum is scheduled to open in April, 2005.
19.) Broke Ground on the Sparta World Shooting Complex. When completed, The World Shooting Complex in Sparta will have nearly 120 trap shooting stations over a 3.5-mile course, skeet stations, sporting clays, rifle and pistol ranges, and a 3-D archery range. In addition, it will have about 1,000 campsites - 650 of which will have full-service hook-ups and another 350 that will have electricity only. The Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) has also agreed to bring its Grand American event, the oldest and most prestigious shooting event in the world, to Illinois beginning in 2006. The Grand American is estimated to bring 150,000 people to the 10-day event in August 2006. Along with other ATA events, the annual economic impact to Illinois is anticipated to be nearly $50 million.
20.) Created the New Americans Initiative. This year Governor Blagojevich launched and funded the New Americans Initiative, a $3 million program designed to help immigrants in adjusting to and becoming American citizens. Of the more than 1.5 million immigrants live in Illinois, over 340,000 Illinois immigrants are eligible for citizenship, with another 140,000 becoming eligible within the next five years. The goal of the New Americans Initiative is to directly assist 20,000 immigrants with the naturalization exam per year.
21.) Launched the Illinois Healthy Women Program. In April 2004, Governor Blagojevich launched the Illinois Healthy Women Program. The Illinois Healthy Women Program offers low-income women who are leaving the Medicaid program the tools to prevent unplanned pregnancies and to assist women in making a successful transition from welfare to work. The program is completely free and on a voluntary basis. Women are automatically enrolled for three months of three months of family planning and reproductive health upon losing their Medicaid benefits, and have the option of enrolling for a full year of coverage. As of November 5, 2004, a total of 61,089 women have received the 3-month enrollment card, and 22,574 women have enrolled for a full year of coverage.
22.) Reduced Fatalities on the Tollway System by 25%. Through heightened enforcement efforts, District 15 of the Illinois State Police reduced Tollway system fatalities by 25%, an unprecedented number in fatality reductions. Illinois State Police are able to monitor the Tollway through the Traffic Incident Management System (TIMS) and send out troopers to patrol zones where traffic is traveling faster than posted speed limits.
23.) Launched the Sheridan National Model Drug Prison & Reentry Program. Governor Blagojevich launched the Sheridan Drug Prison & Reentry Program on January 2, 2004 with the goal of becoming a national model for reducing recidivism among drug-involved offenders and becoming the largest full-dedicated state drug prison and reentry program in the nation with a population of 1,300. The program offers intensive drug treatment to all inmates at the facility, and an extensive case management and job preparedness program. The job preparedness program is the first of its kind in Illinois offering a sectoral-based job training program with connections to actual employers, the development of a new bridge education program for lower-skilled inmates, a job preparedness training program for all inmates, and community-based job placement services to all parolees.
24.) Launched Opportunity: Home Ownership, to Help Hundreds of Illinois Families Become First-Time Homeowners. Opportunity: Home Ownership provides up to $50 million to be used toward below-market rate mortgages for low to middle-income families, many of whom are first-time homebuyers. The program also requires homebuyer counseling, where families can learn about other assistance options, such as gift funds to cover down payment and closing costs. Opportunity: Home Ownership is supported through a partnership between the Illinois Finance Authority, the FreshRate program, and participating Illinois mortgage lenders.
25.) Improved Air Quality by 5%. Illinois continues to see an ongoing trend toward improved air quality, especially in Illinois’ largest metropolitan areas. In the 33rd Annual Air Quality Report, released in 2004, air quality in the state remained good or moderate 94 percent of the days in 2003, up five percent from the previous year.
In addition to creating 252,000 jobs with the $5.3 billion Tollway Plan, $1.5 billion in Opportunity Returns investments, and creating and retaining almost 22,000 jobs by bringing in almost $1.2 billion in private investments, the following job creation accomplishments took place this year:
26.) Opportunity Returns Continues to Brings Jobs and Economic Opportunity to Illinois. Governor Blagojevich continued to deliver on his promise to bring jobs and economic opportunity to every corner of the state through his innovative economic development plan, Opportunity Returns. Additional regional investments that have been announced this year include:
Quincy Trade Mission to China: Representatives from 5 Quincy businesses, Quincy University, and the City of Quincy traveled to China in November to explore increased trade opportunity and seek venture capital funds for companies wishing to invest in Quincy. Response to the mission was so overwhelming that the Mayor of Quincy established a Sister City relationship and opened up new markets to West Central Illinois products. The trade mission was so successful that China is now planning a reverse trade mission to Quincy in February.
· Galesburg Works: In an unprecedented, pro-active effort to ensure that quality employment opportunities promptly return to the 2,000 men and women being laid off at the Maytag Galesburg refrigeration plant, Governor Rod Blagojevich announced the opening of Galesburg Works. This center, along with a satellite outreach center in Monmouth, is the first-ever initiative in Illinois to establish a comprehensive and dedicated community-based center to address the transition needs of entire families, not just the workers losing their jobs through plant closings.
Homeway Homes: The Governor has announced a $750,000 Community Development Assistance Program grant for Homeway Homes, a new pre-fabricated home manufacturer in Deer Creek. This company, which until recently constructed prefabricated homes, is now building an innovative manufacturing facility to create its own home designs, which will be built across the Midwest. This is creating 50 new jobs.
Transition Center for Laid Off Mitsubishi Workers: The Governor has announced the awarding of up to $1.3 million to the local workforce organization, Career Link, to provide transitional services, training and referral services to workers laid off at Mitsubishi, their suppliers, and from other businesses which have recently laid off employees.
U.S. Cellular: USC planned to open a 70,000 sq.ft. call center in a competing Midwest state such as Iowa or Missouri earlier this year. However, Governor Blagojevich and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity worked with USC to provide a smart investment deal to entice them to build a call center in Bolingbrook, Illinois. The call center will generate 450 new jobs and invest at least $10.5 million in Illinois.
Target: As a result of various business investments from the Blagojeivich Administration, the Target Corporation intends to build and equip a 1.3 million square foot regional distribution center in Illinois instead of locating it in Ameriplex Business Park in Portage, Indiana. Target's distribution center will create at least 500 new jobs within two years and has the potential for 1000 new jobs in five years. It will bring Illinois $100 million in private investments.
Market the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial in Hartford: By leveraging the region’s role as the starting point for the historic journey of Lewis and Clark, the state helped make this celebration a premier tourist event in Illinois. Despite two days of torrential rains that kept some visitors away, the state supported marketing campaign was able to attract over 22,000 visitors over the four-day event (35% out of state overnight stays)– boosting the regional economy and providing a lasting effect on the tourism industry in the southwest region. Lewis and Clark executed the project at total state cost of $286,250 and created 50 part-time temporary jobs for the festival.
Help Touchette Hospital purchase St. Mary’s Hospital in East St. Louis: This project has prevented the closure of the only level II trauma center in the Metro East and preserved the availability of services for a distressed area in desperate need of quality healthcare services. Since purchase, the losses of the hospital have been cut in half with a new contract finalized with the union. This project will retain 357 jobs.
- Northern Stateline Region:
Pacific Bearing Sewer Line: In order to remain in Illinois, Pacific Bearing required a sewer line. With a $750,000 CDAP grant to the Village of South Beloit, funding was obtained in order to bring sewer service to Pacific Bearing.
WA Whitney Division of Easterline Inc.: This company was on the market for sale by its parent placing over 80 skilled jobs at risk. An ideal match buyer was identified and was able to purchase the company with assistance from the Governor with a loan of $750,000. Results are the retention of 82 jobs and projected growth over two years of 25 high skill level jobs.
James Hadie Expansion (CDAP): Governor Blagojevich has authorized a CDAP grant for more than $625,000 to the city of Peru to extend water, sewer and roads for the James Hardie Building Products company. As a result of the project, James Hardie Building Products will expand operations to employ 50 new employees and retain 170 employees. The company will invest $50 million additional dollars as a part of this expansion and become a world-leading, specialized, high-technology manufacturer of a wide range of fiber-cement building materials.
Savanna Army Depot Enterprise Zone: When the Depot closed in 1995, 450 jobs were lost and part of the Depot was turned over to a Local Development Authority to operate. In April, an Enterprise Zone was established which enabled a new business to begin refurbishing former ammunition igloos into server storage facilities (managed hosting space). Savanna Depot Technologies Corporation is investing approximately $1M to refurbish four igloos in order to begin the marketing and promotion of this unique service. This managed hosting service and ancillary services is estimated to provide 5 jobs per igloo (there are 400 igloos to be built-out over time). The presence of the Enterprise Zone has also encouraged upgrade and renovations to existing buildings for warehousing and storage.
Pallet Solutions – Pallet reconditioning facility: Pallet Solutions is a privately held entity in Edwards County which purchases forklift pallets from area businesses and reconditions them for resale. They recycle the portions that they cannot reuse. With the help of a $150,000 grant from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Pallet will retain 30 jobs and create an additional 10 –15 and help meet the universal need of waste reduction.
S Coal Company – Surface Coal Mine: S Coal Company is a privately held coal company that has mining operations in Cambria, Williamson County and Elkville, Jackson County. S Coal meets the regional need of jobs; it currently employs nearly 50 people with an annual payroll around $2.6 million. Financial assistance from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has helped S. Coal to remain on the forefront of a reviving Southern Illinois coal industry.
Employee Training Investment at Marathon Refinery: Marathon Refinery in Robinson is one of the most significant employers in the Southeast region, with more than 600 highly skilled industrial employees earning good wages and benefits. In addition, the refinery regularly uses another 100 to 200 contractors during normal operations and 500 to 1,500 contractors during “turnarounds.” Today, Illinois only has four operating refineries. Previously, it had twice as many, including a major refinery in neighboring Lawrenceville that closed down in 1995 after 100 years of operation and devastated the Lawrence County economy. When Marathon indicated it was considering a $100 million investment to produce gasoline that complies with 2007 Clean Fuels standards at one of its refineries across the country, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity provided a significant Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP) grant to train more than 600 workers for the new production unit and keep the facility in Robinson.
· Creation of the Southeastern Illinois Economic Development Authority (SEIDA) -- SEIDA is the seventh such authority created by the state legislature. This authority will provide financing ranging from a few thousand dollars to assist a micro-sized company with startup costs to several million dollars for major corporate expansion and relocation. SIEDA also provides technical assistance and expert advice to help companies establish Tax Increment Financing Districts and Enterprise Zones, prepare financing packages and grant administration.
PPG Enterprise Zone Expansion: This project extends Decatur’s Enterprise zone into rural Macon County to encompass PPG’s Mt. Zion site. This allows PPG to qualify for an Enterprise Zone utility tax exemption, giving the company some competitive breathing room, and helping to retain 400 union jobs.
AGI Retention: AGI is a printer and packager of CD booklets, CD inserts, VD’s and playstation games. AGI came to Jacksonville in 1995 to supply EMI just in time, and at that time, only a small volume of their business was EMI. Upon EMI’s announcement to close its production facility, their volume with AGI was up to 42%. AGI is now trying to migrate more towards the game business, and has moved equipment from two other facilities to improve manufacturing capabilities. The Governor’s Opportunity Returns program assisted in retaining 100 jobs at the Jacksonville facility by assisting with $350,000 from the Large Business Development Program, $435,000 in EDGE tax credits, $3,000 in training money through the ETIP program, and $7,125 in Enterprise Zone credits
27.) Created 12,000 Temporary Jobs By Bringing More Film Production Back to Illinois, Extended the Film Tax Credit. The Illinois Film Office continued the revitalization of the Illinois film industry, working to ensure $75 Million in production revenues and over 12,000 temporary jobs to date. Films shot or currently filming here in 2004 include The Weather Man starring Nicholas Cage, Oceans Twelve with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Julie Roberts, and Matt Damon, Batman Begins starring Christian Bale, Ice Harvest with John Cusack, Roll Bounce being produced by Illinois natives Bob Teitel and George Tillman, independent film Dee Dee Rutherford, Derailed with Jennifer Aniston and 5-29-77, an independent film. Governor Blagojevich also signed the Film Tax Credit Extension bill (SB2207), giving an extension of the tax credits he provided last year to film production companies. The credit is equal to 25% of the wages paid to Illinois residents working on television and film projects shot here in Illinois.
28.) Redeveloped and Increased Job Training. Governor Blagojevich redeveloped the state’s workforce development program through a number of new initiatives: 10 Critical Skills Shortage Initiative grants were awarded to each of the ten economic development regions to identify key industry sectors and occupations that are experiencing shortages in the workforce; One-Stop centers were redesigned in order to better serve their clients, including development of pilots to test the strategy of a Virtual One-Stop system; and grants were provided to public schools in various areas of the state to create programs using the Internet in career explorations and extensive instruction on job readiness skills. Blagojevich also promoted additional job training activities through the Employer Training Investment Program, giving over 78,000 workers from over 2,000 companies training to upgrade their skills to keep pace with the global economy.
29.) Increased Funds For Coal Development. In October, Governor Blagojevich announced nearly $10 million in Opportunity Returns funding for coal development and operation projects aimed at expanding use of Illinois coal, creating and retaining jobs and sustaining the infrastructure needed for continued market expansion. The Illinois Coal Competitiveness Program grants will leverage tens of millions of dollars in private sector investment in areas of Southern Illinois making coal industry revival a linchpin of his Opportunity Returns initiative. The Governor also announced $5 million in grants from the Clean Coal Review Board, which identifies the very best cutting-edge coal-utilization technologies and encourages their application in Illinois. Through this innovative program, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale’s (SIUC) Coal Research Center and the Clean Coal Review Board will develop strategies to encourage the application of innovative coal technologies in commercial settings.
30.) Leading Illinois’ Efforts to Secure the $1 Billion “FutureGen” Power Plant Project. Last year the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) announced it would sponsor "FutureGen," a 10-year, $1 billion public-private demonstration project to create the world's first coal-based, zero-emissions power plant. FutureGen would have a powerful economic impact, bringing national attention to Clean Coal Technology, Hydrogen production from coal and potentially creating hundreds of construction, operations and research jobs. Governor Blagojevich began Illinois' efforts by working with the Illinois Congressional Delegation to bring USDOE to Illinois to promote the state's strengths. The State Geological Survey has demonstrated Illinois' superior geological formations, a critical feature of the project. Governor Blagojevich supported SB 3188 to ensure FutureGen will qualify for incentives under the Illinois Coal Revival Program. At year's end, partial funding for FutureGen was included in the USDOE's FY05 federal budget but the consortium members, who ultimately will make the decision on the site, have not yet been named. Several observers have ranked Illinois among the top two contenders.
31.) Improved Clean Coal Technologies. Three new technologies to improve coal cleaning processes developed by scientists at the Illinois State Geological Survey Division of the Department of Natural Resources are being patented and have been licensed by the University of Illinois to a new company, Dynamic Separations, Inc., headquartered in Champaign. The new company will use its initial $3 million investment to further develop the technologies for coal cleaning and other mineral processing applications. With the support from the Illinois Clean Coal Institute and the new company, the technologies will undergo industrial-scale demonstration testing at American Coal Company’s Galatia mine and at Freeman Energy’s Crown 3 mine during FY05. Through focused on Illinois coal mines during its development, the technology has potential for a wide range of environmental clean-up and economic development applications, worldwide.
In addition to reforming and restoring accountability to the Illinois education system and expanding preschool to 25,000 more children, the following education accomplishments took place this year:
32.) Required ISBE’s budget be line-itemed. The Education Reform Act gives the Governor and legislature more control over the board’s financial management by subjecting the State Board to line-item budgeting for the first time. Line-item budgeting makes ISBE’s spending accountable to the Illinois taxpayers and ensures that money is invested directly into the classroom, instead of administrative bureaucracy.
33.) Streamlined Agency Operations, Freeing Funds for the Classroom. In its first three months the new management team at ISBE launched an overhaul of the agency's rules, cut $2.7 million in agency operating expenses for reallocation to schools. The new team’s executive management salaries are lower than the previous team, projected to save at least $100,000 annually. The Board then began the process of reducing agency contractual services by 13 percent, beginning with the cancellation of the federal lobbyist contract for Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, Inc. that resulted in a savings of $30,000 for FY05. The plan also identified areas where the agency was incurring costs for unwarranted services. In some instances, good use of technology has helped reduce costs. For example, electronic document transmission and Internet access to agency publications has lowered high volume printing demands by 75 percent, eliminating the need for a full-service printing operation.
34.) Recognized Nationally For Creating High Quality Preschool Programs. Fueled by the Governor’s strong commitment to high-quality preschool programs, the Illinois State Board of Education was recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) as having one of the strongest state-run, early childhood programs in the nation. The NIEER study gave Illinois a score of 9 out of a possible 10 for quality, making it one of only three states to receive a nine or higher. Illinois was recognized because of its rigorous requirements for preschool teachers; low staff-child ratios of 1:10; vision, hearing and health screening/referral requirements; and the comprehensiveness of its preschool curriculum standards.
35.) Expanded Meal Subsidies to 40,000 More Children. By creating a collaborative partnership between the Illinois State Board of Education and the Department of Human Services, eligibility for reimbursement of nutritious meals to home childcare providers was significantly expanded. As a result 19,000 home childcare providers will now be able to offer healthy meals and snacks to the more than 40,000 children in their care.
36.) Opened Venice Charter School. At the direction of Governor Blagojevich, the new State Board worked with the Venice community in southwestern Illinois to open a new charter school for students who were displaced after the closing of Venice High School. Some of the students had not been attending school since the old high school was closed, while others had to travel to adjacent districts facing similar academic challenges. By working closely with the Venice community, the State Board was able to develop an education plan for Venice students that was grounded in common sense and accountability, but was also creative and innovative. Students were able to get back to school in their own community - a school with good teachers and experienced, accountable leadership.
37.) Cut Back on Red Tape.
After Governor Blagojevich charged ISBE with reducing red tape for schools, the new State Board has worked towards changing its relationship with local districts, and reducing regulations that hamstring teachers and administrators. The agency created an email address, email@example.com
, to open lines of communication with constituents, initiated an internal rules review, and conducted public forums to get input on how to reduce rules and regulations. Superintendents, principals, and educators have shared with the Board their ideas on where red tape can be cut, and the agency has already acted on a number of those proposals. For example, a principal in southern Illinois recommended that the State Board eliminate duplicative forms parents are required to sign stating that they wish to receive free textbooks provided through the Illinois Textbook Loan Program. The State Board is revising its rules to eliminate the form.
38.) Eliminated the Chicago Teacher Certification Backlog. When the new State Board of Education took office, the backlog of teacher certifications stretched back more than one year. In just three months since Governor Blagojevich overhauled the State Board, the agency has totally eliminated the Chicago backlog, and reduced the backlog for the rest of the state by over one-half. The agency has made this progress by redeploying staff, and rethinking the way the agency processes certification applications. By Spring 2005, the entire backlog will be eliminated and a new process will be put in place to ensure that a certification backlog never happens again.
39.) Fixed Historic School Report Cards Mess. Working closely with local districts, the new State Board was able to correct errors in School Report Card data affecting more than half of all Illinois schools. The corrections avoided a repeat of problems experienced under the old leadership at ISBE , when over 400 schools suffered No Child Left Behind sanctions after having been mislabeled as not meeting federal standards due to incorrect data on cards.
40.) Expanded Learning Facilities at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. Delivering on his pledge to strengthen education and job training in Southern Illinois, Governor Blagojevich broke ground on the 45,000 square foot expansion and renovation of Southern Illinois University -Carbondale’s (SIUC) Morris Library that is being made possible by $30 million from the state’s Capital Development Board (CDB). The expansion will add three new computer classrooms, an Internet café, and new study rooms with Internet access. All of these important additions are designed to give students the tools they need to excel in the classroom, while continuing to expand the resources of a university that has earned a reputation as one of the leading research institutions in the Midwest.
Making Healthcare Accessible and Affordable
In addition to launching I-Save Rx, being cited by the Kaiser Foundation as the best state in the nation for providing healthcare to those in need and offering low-income women healthcare coverage during their transition off Medicaid, the following healthcare accomplishments took place this year.
42.) Provided Healthcare Coverage to Over 60,000 More Kids and 127,000 More Parents. In 2004, Governor Blagojevich continued on his promise to increase healthcare coverage for children and parents under KidCare and FamilyCare. After increasing the eligibility requirements and aggressively promoting the programs across the state Governor Blagojevich was able to provide healthcare to over 60,000 more children and 127,000 more parents than last year.
43.) Increased Funding to Screen 19,000 Additional Women for Breast and Cervical Cancer. 19,000 women, 44 percent of whom are minorities, received free screenings through the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP). As a result of Illinois’ successful outreach efforts to recruit eligible women, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave Illinois an unprecedented supplemental award of $1.1 million. In the past two years, an additional $4 million in state funding has been secured to support breast and cervical cancer screening and education. Funding support to community and faith-based groups, such as the Stand Against Cancer initiative (SAC), resulted in an additional 5,700 screenings.
44.) Implemented Legislation Requiring Private Insurers to Cover Birth Control For Women. Last year Governor Blagojevich signed legislation that requires private insurance providers to cover all FDA approved birth control drugs and devices for not only men, but women. On January 1st, 2004 the law went into effect, requiring birth control coverage for women for the first time in Illinois. For years, men have received insurance coverage for reproductive health services, including the coverage of the cost for Viagra, yet women have been required to pay out of pocket for prescription contraceptives. Now in our state women can share in some of the same insurance benefits as men.
45.) Extended Mental Health Services. Governor Blagojevich and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) have established a unique partnership with a network of Universities and Hospitals to enable all children coming into DCFS to have an Integrated Assessment. This new collaborative