SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today applauded the Illinois House of Representatives for passing a $45.8 billion operating budget that does not raise taxes and ensures:
· Illinois will become the only state to give all 3 and 4- year olds in the state access to pre-school;
· Middle class families will receive help with the high cost of college tuition;
· Overcrowded schools will have smaller class sizes;
· Uninsured, low income veterans will have access to health care;
· Senior citizens will be able to get help for a wide range of needs in one place;
· More nurses will be trained and ready to serve patients in Illinois;
· Law enforcement will have DNA results significantly faster as more tests are done in state labs, and more police officers will be on the streets;
· More women will receive life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings;
· Illinois guarantee access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance to all children;
· And, the people of Illinois will not have to worry about the state taking more out of their paychecks in the form of higher taxes.
“The budget that the House passed today will make a real difference in the lives of Illinois families,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Our budget gives every 3- and 4- year old in the state access to preschool, helps families afford the high cost of college tuition, and helps low-income veterans get the health care they need. I commend the House for passing this budget and I thank House Speaker Michael Madigan for his leadership in helping shape and pass this budget.”
The Illinois Senate is expected to debate the Fiscal Year 2007 budget proposal tomorrow. The FY07 budget proposal includes new investments in education, healthcare, and public safety, as well as new initiatives to streamline state regulations for businesses and clean up the state’s riverfronts.
Investing in Children
During his first three years, Governor Blagojevich dedicated $2.3 billion of new funding into Illinois schools. This represents more new money invested in education than any other state in the Midwest, more than 43 other states in the nation, and more than any administration in one term in Illinois history.
For the fourth consecutive year, Governor Blagojevich has provided a major increase in education funding - $415 million more for PreK-12 education. The budget also funds new landmark initiatives proposed by the Governor including universal preschool, a pilot program to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through 3rd grade, and a grant for families struggling to afford the high costs of college. The total increase in education funding over 4 years is $3.8 billion, and the year to year increase from FY03 to FY07 is $1.5 billion.
Preschool for All
Preschool for All makes Illinois the only state in the nation to move to provide access to high-quality pre-school for every three-year-old and four-year-old child in Illinois. The program, which guarantees that in the end approximately 190,000 Illinois children will have the chance to attend preschool, will reach working families who are not be able to afford the high cost of private preschool. Funding for preschool programs will increase by $45 million this year. Students who attend preschool are 20 percent more likely to graduate high school, 41 percent less likely to need special education and 42 percent less likely to be arrested for committing a violent crime. Studies also show that for every dollar spent on early childhood education, society saves at least $7 through decreased reliance on social services. Participation in the program for parents is voluntary.
School Funding Increases
This year’s budget includes a $415 million increase for PreK-12 education spending, bringing the state’s new funding for education to more than $3.8 billion over the last four years. This represents the largest increase by an administration in Illinois history.
Helping Middle Class Families Pay for College
Building on his ongoing efforts to make college more affordable for students and families, Gov. Blagojevich provided the MAP program with its largest increase in ten years, a boost of 10% over FY06, and expanded the program to help middle-income families as well. With a new investment of $34.4 million, Illinois will create MAP Plus to help middle class families who don’t qualify for the traditional MAP program, and struggle to afford rising college tuition costs. MAP Plus will provide a $500 per student grant for sophomores, juniors and seniors who attend college in Illinois. An additional increase of $34.4 million will boost MAP grants to their statutory maximum of up to $4,968, which will help more students and their parents afford college. In total, 225,000 students will benefit from the creation of MAP Plus and the additional funding for MAP.
Classroom Size Reduction
To reduce the size of Illinois kindergarten through third grade classrooms, Gov. Blagojevich earmarked $10 million to help schools pay for more teacher salaries and benefits. Senate Bill 2882, sponsored by Senator Terry Link and Representative Michael Smith, creates a pilot program that will distribute the $10 million award as $50,000 grants equally among suburban, downstate, and Chicago Public Schools. More teachers mean smaller classes. And, smaller classes mean more attention for each student from the teacher and a better learning environment.
Increase for Higher Education
This year’s budget includes a $48 million increase for higher education. Universities will receive more than $18 million to attract and retain the best faculty, and community college grants will increase by almost $7 million.
Expanding Access to Healthcare
Since taking office three years ago, Governor Blagojevich has made healthcare available to more than 400,000 working people and their children. And at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2007, his All Kids health insurance program will go into effect, giving every uninsured child in Illinois access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage. The Governor also created the Illinois Cares Rx program so that no senior would lose coverage after the federal government implemented the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit program that actually provides Illinois seniors with less coverage than before. While other states cut healthcare coverage back to balance their budgets in the face of deficits, Governor Blagojevich not only kept coverage intact, but also expanded it.
In the last three years, Illinois has provided free breast and cervical cancer screenings to 98,000 uninsured women, launched the Healthy Women program, offering free healthcare to 167,000 women, and awarded 77 women’s health initiatives grants to fund local education programs. As a result of these and more healthcare investments, the Kaiser Foundation now ranks Illinois number one in insuring parents who need healthcare coverage.
Governor Blagojevich believes that healthcare is a fundamental right. This year’s budget continues to further that goal by launching a new comprehensive healthcare program for veterans, in addition to new programs to streamline services for seniors and educate more nurses in Illinois and an increase in funding for life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings.
After serving their country in the military, and putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom - veterans should expect to be treated with dignity when they return home. But too often they are forced to get by without access to affordable health care. In response, Governor Blagojevich worked with state legislators to launch Veterans Care, a new program that will provide affordable and comprehensive health care to an estimated 9,000 veterans who are most likely to fall through the cracks. The new program will help uninsured Illinois veterans between the ages of 19-64 who earn too much to qualify for federal Veterans Health Administration assistance or other state health programs. Just as the Governor turned KidCare into All Kids, the ultimate goal of Veterans Care is making sure every Illinois veteran can afford healthcare.
In an effort to better serve Illinois senior citizens, Governor Blagojevich included $7.8 million in the budget to launch a Comprehensive Case Management System. The Illinois Department on Aging will implement the first phase of this major initiative and when fully operational, the system will provide a single point of entry for services, comprehensive assessment and coordination of clients’ needs and a broad array of other services. Additionally, through an innovative partnership with the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the Department on Aging will have $2 million in new funding to use for one-time home modifications that will help seniors stay in their homes longer and for emergency rental payments, first month’s deposits and utility bills for seniors transitioning back from nursing homes into communities. This program will join with the existing Community Care program.
In addition, the state will invest $10 million to increase the Asset Limit for state assistance to $17,500 (from $12,500) and provide additional emergency home response and respite services for seniors living at home.
To avoid a severe nursing shortage and to ensure an adequate healthcare workforce to meet the aging baby boomer generation’s needs, the budget includes $1.3 million in nursing education scholarships that will make pursuing a career in nursing education more attractive and more affordable in the State of Illinois. In addition, the Governor allocated another $1.5 million for grants to nursing schools to increase the number of graduating nurses as well as $150,000 for 15 nurse educator fellowships that would supplement faculty salaries. The FY07 budget also contains funding to create a Center for Nursing that would develop a strategic plan for nursing manpower in Illinois, maintain a database on nursing supply and demand, and create nursing retention and recruitment initiatives. The Governor also worked with state Sen. Carol Ronen and state Rep. Lou Lang to pass legislation that creates a student loan repayment program for nurse educators.
Breast and Cervical Cancer
This budget contains new funding to expand breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment to uninsured women who earn up to 250% of the poverty level (approximately $24,500 for a single woman). This will provide screenings to help women detect breast or cervical cancer early on, and treatment for those who need it. It builds on the expansion of health care services for women included in the Governor’s first three budgets.
Strengthening Public Safety
Governor Blagojevich included several new public safety initiatives and funding commitments in his FY07 budget proposal to better protect people from the destructive cycle of drugs and violent crime. These initiatives follow three years of strong public safety commitments including increasing the state’s investment in DNA testing by $7.3 million from 2004 to 2006, and opening a $19 million state-of-the-art State Emergency Operations Center. Overall, violent crimes committed in Illinois are down nine percent since 2002 and property crimes are down six percent. Additionally, Illinois also is one of only seven states that have achieved the highest level of bioterrorism preparedness according to the Centers for Disease Control.
New Police Officers
Governor Blagojevich earmarked $3 million in Fiscal Year 2007 to begin training 100 new Illinois State Police cadets. Two new cadet classes of 50 officers each will be trained in FY07 - the first class beginning this summer and the second beginning in June of 2007. In addition, the new budget includes $8.4 million to purchase approximately 300 new police cars.
Prairie State DNA Institute
In order to improve training and retention of forensic scientists and enable the state to bring all DNA testing in-house where it’s less expensive and more efficient, Gov. Blagojevich is allocating $500,000 to create a program to offer scholarships at different Illinois universities and $1.8 million to begin planning construction on the Prairie State DNA Institute. While the turnaround time for testing forensic samples was significantly reduced to about 30 days from more than 10 months at the beginning of 2003, last year delays at outside laboratories increased the turnaround time for a forensic sample to 75 days. With the Prairie State DNA Institute, the state will no longer be forced to outsource cases, making the turnaround time to process samples faster and reducing the error rate. The scholarship program will ensure a steady stream of well-trained forensic scientists at the lab, who would train for a period of time while they’re still in college and in return would be obligated to work in state labs for four years.
Governor Blagojevich provided full funding in the FY 07 budget for the creation of a specialized prison and treatment facility for inmates with meth addictions at the 667-bed Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center. The new unit, which will receive $1.9 million from the state and $4.78 million from the federal government, will be modeled after the Sheridan National Model Drug Prison & Reentry program that has shown tremendous success, with a re-incarceration rate that is nearly 50 percent lower than other groups. In Illinois, the number of meth labs dismantled grew from 24 in 1997 to 961 in 2004. In the last three years, Illinois has provided law enforcement with more tools to fight meth and made it easier for prosecutors to go after meth makers. Illinois laws regarding meth are among the toughest in the nation.
In addition, a new investment of $1.6 million will allow the state to implement pilot programs in 19 counties to improve security around anhydrous ammonia tanks and reduce methamphetamine production.
The FY 07 budget also includes $6.8 million to open a portion of Thomson Correctional Center to house minimum security inmates. The facility will open September 1.
Promoting Renewable Energy and Preserving the Environment
In order to help reduce our reliance on foreign oil and promote cleaner locally-made fuels, in the coming year the state will provide $20 million for investments in alternative fuel and renewable fuel facilities (biodiesel and ethanol), and $5 million for research into renewable fuels at Southern Illinois University and Western Illinois University.
Preserving Natural Habitat
In the coming fiscal year, the state will invest $29 million to preserve open space: $15 million for the purchase of hunting lands, $2 million for increased grants from the popular Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Program (OSLAD), and $2 million to begin to conduct a Natural Areas Inventory.
Economic Development and Business Growth
The General Assembly passed the River Edge Redevelopment Initiative that will encourage developers to clean up and develop environmentally contaminated riverfronts. Riverfronts in downtown areas are ideal for commercial, retail and residential use, but because these areas are often environmentally contaminated as a result of former industrial use, developing these sites can cost 20 to 40 percent more than uncontaminated sites. The River Edge Initiative designates redevelopment zones in areas adjacent rivers that have economic development potential, but the cost of redevelopment have made attracting investment extremely difficult. Redevelopment Zones will be eligible to receive tax credits, exemptions and potentially new grant funding to support clean-up, remediation and redevelopment efforts that will lead to economic revitalization in these areas. In addition to the tax credits, this new pilot program will start with $2 million in grant funding for Aurora and East St. Louis, and provide developers and businesses with the critical tools to revive and redevelop abandoned or contaminated properties.
Expanded Passenger Rail Service
In FY07, the state will boost its investment in Amtrak by more than $12 million, allowing passenger rail service to start new lines servicing Springfield, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Quincy and Carbondale.
To further improve the state’s ability to create and retain jobs, Governor Blagojevich included $1.6 million to simplify the licensing process for doctors, nurses, accountants, realtors, roofers, appraisers, real estate brokers, barbers, beauticians, and almost 200 other professions. To do this, the Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) is installing a new system to capture applicant data for all licenses quickly and accurately. The department will also streamline the applications, reducing the time it takes a professional to fill it out and review it. More than one million people rely on the state to grant or renew their professional license, but the licensing process can take up to 19 weeks. With the new licensing reform in place, the time it takes to complete the process will be reduced to only one to four weeks.
Minority Job Training
A $6.4 million investment in FY07 will be used to improve minority participation in pre-apprentice and apprenticeship programs. In addition, funding for local infrastructure, regional workforce training and community development activities will be increased by $10 million.
To continue to streamline state government and improve efficiency to save taxpayers’ money, Governor Blagojevich fully funded the shared services initiative to combine state agency “back-office” functions. The state currently has as many as 9 payroll systems, 38 human resource systems, 104 fiscal systems, 95 call centers and 100 "1-800" numbers. Shared services will eliminate many of these duplicate and redundant services. Also, with as many as 23,000 employees of the Baby Boomer age set to retire from state government within the next 10 years, shared services will allow for a better knowledge transfer so that younger workers can learn from more experienced workers. This initiative will combine administrative functions across state agencies to reduce operating costs and headcount. These functions include human resources, payroll and benefits, accounting, procurement and benefits. Agencies will be grouped into clusters based on similar purposes, for example public safety, social services and infrastructure. The shared services initiative only applies to administrative functions, not the actual substantive responsibility of each agency. When fully implemented, this initiative could save taxpayers more than $115 million a year.
In summary, without raising taxes on Illinois families, the Fiscal Year 2007 budget would make significant investments in:
o $415 million increase for K-12
o Universal Pre-K for every 3 and 4 year old in the state
o Creation of MAP Plus to help middle class families pay for college
o Expansion of MAP to increase maximum per student funding to $4,986
o Classroom size reduction
o $48 million increase for higher education
· Health care
o Provides health care to every child
o Launches health care for veterans
o Reduces the nursing shortage
o Increases breast and cervical cancer screenings
· Job Creation
o Expands tax credits that help businesses create jobs
o Streamlines taxes and regulations to save businesses time and money
o Reduces red-tape and simplifies the licensing process for hundreds of professions
· Public Safety
o Provides funding for new police officers and new police cars
o Creates new prison program designed to help meth addicts recover
o Launches the Prairie State DNA Institute
· Streamlining government and cuts costs through the shared services initiative that combines state agency “back-office” functions.