SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, making historic increases in funding for education and health care and allocating funding to make college more affordable, increase the number of nurses in the state, help seniors and veterans with more comprehensive assistance and continue to streamline state government.
The FY07 budget does not raise sales or income taxes and ensures:
· Illinois will become the only state to start giving all 3 and 4-year-olds in the state access to pre-school;
· All children will have access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance;
· 220,000 students will receive help with the high cost of college tuition;
· Overcrowded elementary 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;
· Illinois’ nursing profession will grow;
· DNA tests will be processed faster and in state labs, and more police officers will be on the streets;
· More women will receive breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment;
· Businesses licenses will be processed in to 1-4 weeks, down from 19 weeks;
· Illinois will guarantee access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance to all children;
The Illinois General Assembly passed the $45.8 billion operating budget on May 4.
“This budget is the culmination of four years of changing the priorities of state government and doing things that no one thought was possible. We’ve dramatically changed where we invest our dollars and in doing so, we’ve shown Illinois is a state that prioritizes wisely. I am proud to sign this budget today because we’re guaranteeing health care and preschool to every child, making historic investments in our schools, helping seniors and veterans access quality healthcare at a cost they can afford and have been able to do so without raising taxes on our hardworking citizens. No one thought we could do all this, but we did while making government more efficient and effective by reducing the bloated bureaucracy by 13,000 employees, consolidating state agencies, closing unfair corporate tax loopholes and using unspent special interest dollars to help pay for our priorities. This is a budget that reflects our priorities and one we should all be proud of,” said Governor Blagojevich.
The budget for Fiscal Year 2007, which starts July 1, includes significant new investments in education, health care, and public safety, as well as new initiatives to streamline state government and keep our environment healthy.
Investing in Children
For the fourth consecutive year, Governor Blagojevich has provided a major increase in education funding - $415 million more for K-12 education in the upcoming year. The budget also funds new initiatives proposed by the Governor including preschool for all 3 and 4-year-olds and a pilot program to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through 3rd grade.
This budget 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 Illinois history. Over the past four years, Governor Blagojevich’s record investment totals $3.8 billion in new funding into Illinois schools.
Preschool for All
Preschool for All makes Illinois the only state in the nation to begin providing access to high-quality preschool for every 3-year-old and 4-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 able to afford the high cost of private preschool. Funding for preschool programs is increasing by $45 million this year, allowing 10,000 new children to get an early start on their education. Participation in the program for parents is voluntary.
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. The Preschool for All legislation, Senate Bill 1497, was sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester) and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago).
Helping Middle Class Families Pay for College
Continuing his commitment to make college more affordable for working students and families, Governor Blagojevich provided the MAP program with its largest increase in ten years, a boost of 10 percent over FY06, and created a new program to help middle-income families as well. With a new investment of $34.4 million, he created MAP Plus to help middle class families who didn’t receive 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 from families with incomes less than $200,000 who attend college in Illinois. An additional increase of $34.4 million was added to the original MAP grants to increase the grant awards to their statutory maximum of up to $4,968. In total, 225,000 students will benefit from the creation of MAP Plus and the additional funding for MAP. Senate Bill 2225 was sponsored by Sen. Edward Maloney (D – Chicago) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park).
Classroom Size Reduction
Because smaller classes mean more attention for each student from the teacher and a better learning environment, Governor Blagojevich included $10 million in the new budget to help schools pay for additional teacher salaries and benefits. Senate Bill 2882, sponsored by Sen. Terry Link (D-Lake Bluff) and Rep. Michael Smith (D-Canton), creates a pilot program that will distribute $50,000 grants equally among suburban, downstate, and Chicago Public Schools.
Increase for Higher Education
The new budget boosts funding for higher education by $48 million. Universities will receive more than $26 million to help attract and retain the best faculty and increase other school programs, and community college grants will increase by almost $7 million.
After School Programs
After school programs will have $12 million more to provide educational and extracurricular activities for children after the school bell rings. These programs keep children engaged in productive activities at times when their parents may still be at work. After-school programs provide a safe, nurturing environment for kids, keeping them safe while helping with schoolwork, providing mentorship and offering stimulating extracurricular activities.
The FY07 budget includes a $20 million increase to pay for a 3 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for DCFS foster parents and a similar COLA for certain DHS community providers. The increase will improve compensation for those who care for children who have been taken into the state’s custody and other vulnerable populations.
Expanding Access to Healthcare
Since taking office three years ago, Governor Blagojevich has made health care available to more than 400,000 working people and their children. On July 1, his landmark 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. The budget furthers the Governor’s believe that health care is a fundamental right by launching a new comprehensive health care program for veterans, in addition to new programs to streamline services for seniors, educate more nurses in Illinois and an increase in funding for life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment.
The Kaiser Foundation ranks Illinois number one in the nation in providing insurance for working adults who don’t have access to affordable health care. Over the past three years, Illinois has provided free breast and cervical cancer screenings to 98,000 uninsured women, launched the Healthy Women program, offered free healthcare to 167,000 women, and awarded 77 women’s health initiatives grants for local education programs.
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. 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 Department of Veterans Affairs assistance or other state health programs. Just as the Governor turned KidCare into All Kids, the ultimate goal of Veterans Care is to ensure every Illinois veteran can afford healthcare. Senate Bill 627 was sponsored by Sen. Debbie DeFrancesco Halvorson (D-Chicago Heights) and Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley).
In an effort to better serve senior citizens, the budget includes $7.8 million 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 a 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 to 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.
The new budget also increases the Asset Limit for state assistance to $17,500 from $12,500 with an additional $10 million investment to provide additional emergency home response and respite services for seniors living at home.
To address the critical nursing shortage facing Illinois, $1.3 million is dedicated for nursing education scholarships to 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 Sen. Carol Ronen (D-Chicago) and Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) to pass legislation that creates a student loan repayment program for nurse educators.
Residential Nursing Care
The FY07 budget provides an additional $30 million in state and federal funding to nursing homes to ensure that they are held harmless as the state transitions to a new method for determining nursing home Medicaid reimbursements.
Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings
Governor Blagojevich has consistently made women’s health a priority and this year 7,000 more women will have access to breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment because of an additional $3.6 million in funding combined with $2 million more in federal funding. The new funding will increase eligibility for life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings to women with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $25,000 for an individual or $50,000 for a family of four). The Governor has provided $26.6 million in funding for women’s breast and cervical health programs over the last four years.
Children’s Mental Health Services
The new budget includes a $5 million increase for children’s mental health services. The increased funding will expand mental health services to children and is based on recommendations made by the Children’s Mental Health Partnership.
Minority AIDS Outreach
To expand state efforts to slow the disproportionately high rate of HIV/AIDS among minorities, the new budget increases funding by $3 million for programs to combat the disease in the African-American community.
Strengthening Public Safety
Governor Blagojevich included several new public safety initiatives and funding commitments in the new budget 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 $12 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 the new budget 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 budget includes $8.4 million to purchase approximately 300 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, the budget for the upcoming year includes $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 new 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 200-bed treatment unit 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, is 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 meth laws are among the toughest in the nation.
A new investment of $1.6 million will implement pilot programs in 19 counties to improve security at anhydrous ammonia tanks and ultimately reduce meth production.
Preparing Prisoners for Reentry
Additional funding of $5.7 million for Department of Correction will increase programming in support of parolee reentry, including interview skills and transitional employment. These efforts to prepare inmates to return to their communities will build on Governor Blagojevich’s emphasis on reducing recidivism.
The new budget also includes $6.7 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 next year, the state will invest $29 million to preserve open space. The budget includes $15 million for the purchase of hunting lands, $12 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. The new funding for the Natural Areas Inventory is part of a $4.5 million commitment over three years.
Economic Development and Business Growth
The budget includes funding for the Governor’s River Edge Redevelopment Initiative, which was passed by the General Assembly, to encourage developers to clean up and develop environmentally contaminated riverfronts. The Illinois EPA is receiving an additional $5 million in a capital appropriation to implement the initiative. The initiative will be launched in Aurora, Rockford, and East St. Louis – newly designated "River Edge Redevelopment Zones." Each designated municipality would be eligible to receive up to $2 million to investigate and remediate brownfield sites within the zone.
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 Redevelopment Zones are 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.
EPA also has an existing Municipal Brownfields Grant Program that is not limited to the designated Zones. Municipalities must also apply for the existing program.
Senate Bill 17, the bill creating the River’s Edge Revelopment Initiative, was sponsored by Sen. James Clayborne (D-East St. Louis) and Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora). State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-Rockford) sponsored Senate Bill 1892 that includes Rockford in this pilot program.
Expanded Air and Passenger Rail Service
The next year will see more passenger rail service and the attraction of more regional air carriers. The state boosted its investment in Amtrak by more than $12 million, allowing passenger rail service to start new lines servicing Springfield, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Carbondale and Quincy. The budget includes $1.6 million in grants to promote regional commuter air service at Quincy, Decatur and Williamson County airports.
To further improve the state’s ability to create and retain jobs, Governor Blagojevich included $1.6 million to simplify and streamline the licensing process for 200 professions, including doctors, nurses, accountants, realtors, roofers, appraisers, real estate brokers, barbers and beauticians. With the new licensing reform in place, the time it takes to complete the process will be reduced to only one to four weeks. 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. More than one million people rely on the state to grant or renew their professional license.
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 and regional workforce training and community development is increased by $10 million.
Film Tax Credit
Over the last two years, the film industry in Illinois has taken off. To keep it going, Governor Blagojevich will sign legislation enhancing Illinois’ film and television production tax credit. Senate Bill 2030, proposed by the Governor and sponsored by State Senator Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), increases the film tax credit making productions in Illinois even more attractive to producers. In 2005, production revenue increased to an estimated $94 million, which led to approximately 15,000 people being hired by various film and television projects.
Making Government Smaller
To continue streamlining state government and improving services for citizens, Governor Blagojevich is launching the shared services initiative, which will combine state agency “back-office” functions and eliminate duplicate services. 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. This initiative will combine administrative functions of human services, payroll and benefits, accounting and procurement across state agencies to reduce operating costs and headcount. Also, with as many as 23,000 employees of the Baby Boomer generation 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. Under shared services, agencies will be grouped into clusters based on similar function, for example public safety, social services and infrastructure. When fully implemented, the shared services initiative could save taxpayers more than $115 million a year.
In summary, Governor Blagojevich signed a budget for Fiscal Year 2007 that makes significant investments in:
· $415 million increase for K-12
· Preschool for All
· Creation of MAP Plus to help middle class families pay for college
· $34 million expansion of funding for the current MAP program
· New grants for classroom size reduction
· $48 million increase for higher education
· Health care
· Provides health care to every uninsured child
· Launches Veterans Care to cover uninsured veterans
· Reduces the nursing shortage
· Makes breast and cervical cancer screenings available to more women
· Job Creation
· Expands tax credits that help businesses create jobs
· Streamlines taxes and regulations to save businesses time and money
· Reduces red-tape and simplifies the licensing process for hundreds of professions
· Public Safety
· Provides funding for new police officers and new police cars
· Creates a new facility designed to help incarcerated meth addicts recover
· Launches the Prairie State DNA Institute
· Streamlines government and cuts costs through the shared services initiative that combines state agency “back-office” functions.
· And for the fourth consecutive budget, does all of this without asking the hardworking people of Illinois for more of their money in income taxes or sales taxes.