SPRINGFIELD — Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker made several stops this week on a statewide promotional tour for a $45 billion capital infrastructure plan he signed into law in Springfield on Friday, June 28.
During stops in Walker’s Bluff, Champaign, Rockford, Waukegan and other impacted cities, Pritzker said the six-year capital plan could create 540,000 jobs while investing in roads, bridges, railways, universities, early childhood centers, a state crime lab and veterans homes, among others.
House Bill 62, the infrastructure plan dubbed “Rebuild Illinois,” allocates $33.2 billion for transportation, including $11 billion for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s multi-year plan and $14 billion for other road and bridge projects. It also includes $4.7 billion for mass transit, $1 billion for passenger rail and millions for ports, aeronautics and other projects.
Higher education will see $2.9 billion in infrastructure spending while K-12 and early childhood education will see a combined $526 million.
Pritzker said all of Illinois will benefit from the plan as he defended a portion that dedicates about $6 million to each Democratic state senator for projects in their districts, compared to $3 million for each Republican senator. Democrats and Republicans in the House would each see about half those amounts respectively.
“The fact is that a majority of the funding in the infrastructure bill goes to downstate Illinois,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker also touted a statewide expansion of broadband internet infrastructure which will receive $420 million in funding.
The plan additionally allocates $4.4 billion to deferred maintenance at state facilities and $1 billion on environment and conservation projects for hazardous waste, sewer and park projects among others. Health care and human services will see $465 million in funding for affordable housing, hospitals, health centers and other grant programs.
Another $1.8 billion is allocated to various “community and economic development” projects such as education and scientific facilities and projects in economically depressed areas. Another $50 million provided by the funding bill will be set aside for bicycle path projects.
Mark Denzler, president of the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association, touted career and technical education measures such as a pre-apprenticeship program that will receive $25 million in funding to “help address the skills gap and workforce challenges facing manufacturers across Illinois.”
Revenues for the capital plan come from a pair of bills — Senate Bills 690 and 1939 — one raising the motor fuel tax and transportation-related vehicle fees, the other enacting a massive expansion of gambling in the state.
The gaming bill — which allows for six new casinos, expansion of gambling at racetracks, added video gaming machines, higher taxes and maximum bets on video gaming machines and the legalization of sports gambling — is expected to generate at least $350 million annually at full implementation and will support vertical capital debt service.
The first wave of tax increases that will pay for the state’s $45 billion capital infrastructure plan took effect Monday, July 1.
Motor fuel, cigarettes and e-cigarettes became more expensive after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bills 1939 and 690.
The most direct tax for consumers is the 19-cent increase to the motor fuel tax which will help fund $33 billion in spending on transportation projects such as road and bridge repairs and public transit.
The motor fuel tax on regular gasoline and diesel fuel both increased to 38 cents, up from the current 19 cents. In addition, though, people who buy diesel fuel pay an additional tax, “for the privilege of operating motor vehicles which use diesel fuel.” That additional fee rose to 7.5 cents, up from the current 2.5 cents, bringing the total tax on diesel fuel to 45.5 cents per gallon.
Going forward, the motor fuel tax will increase annually by the consumer price index, which is usually close to 2 percent, but would be capped at a 1 cent per-year increase.
The gas tax increase and $45 billion infrastructure plan drew bipartisan support in both houses, including from Republican state Rep. Margo McDermed of Mokena.
“The capital plan does contain additional sources of revenue, but it is necessary long-term sustainable funding that will help us avoid the peaks and valleys of intermittent funding, which leads to starts and stops on projects our communities are counting on,” McDermed said in a news release. “Further, people who drive on our roads every day are paying for it, they just don’t realize it.”
The motor fuel tax increase is expected to bring in about $1.3 billion in added infrastructure funding, while other fee increases for licenses and registrations will not take effect until Jan. 1.
Also starting July 1, the tax on a pack of cigarettes increased to $2.98, up from $1.98, while a separate state law would prevent anybody under the age of 21 from purchasing cigarettes. The tax increase is expected to generate about $159 million in revenue for the next fiscal year, all of which would go to the capital infrastructure plan.
Senate Bill 690, which laid out a massive statewide gambling expansion, included the cigarette tax language and also defined electronic cigarettes such as e-cigars, vapes and hookahs as “tobacco products.” This allowed the state to charge a 15 percent wholesale tax on these products beginning July 1.
While Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been touring the state to promote his signing of capital infrastructure and marijuana legalization legislation, several other bills he signed have received less public attention.
House Bill 2028, which passed the state Senate and House unanimously, became law last week. It doubles the death benefits for families of law enforcement officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. They are now eligible for $20,000, up from $10,000.
“While no amount of money can ease the terrible grief of families who have lost their loved ones because they were killed in the line of duty, I hope we can at least lessen the financial burden of an immeasurable loss of our state’s finest,” Pritzker said in a statement.
Senate Bill 1890 is aimed at cracking down on human trafficking by requiring hotels and motels to train employees in the recognition of human trafficking and protocols for reporting the activity to the appropriate authority.
The measure also codifies penalties for any company that, “knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture that has engaged in an act of involuntary servitude or involuntary sexual servitude of a minor.”
A company can be fined up to $100,000 for engaging in this activity, while a person would be charged with a Class 1 Felony.
Traffic stop data
A program for collecting data about traffic stops, initially sponsored by former President Barack Obama when he was still serving in the Illinois Senate, was put on the books permanently with Pritzker’s signature of House Bill 1613.
Pritzker’s office said in a release the data collection law, which was set to expire this year, “is an important tool for police officers and the public to identify and combat racial disparities in law enforcement.”
The new law also creates a task force to study how the data collected can best be used to address racial disparities in traffic stops.
The task force will be comprised of police representatives, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois or a designee, six representatives of various police unions, five representatives of community organizations, one professor that specializes in racial equity and works at an Illinois university, and two academics or researchers with backgrounds studying traffic stop data.
The task force must report to the governor and General Assembly by March 1, 2022, and every three years thereafter.
Credit card debt
Last week, the governor also signed House Bill 1581 to create the College Student Credit Card Marketing and Debt Task Force.
Representatives from Southern Illinois University, the University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Eastern Illinois University, the attorney general’s office and statewide organizations representing credit unions, community banks and banks will make up the task force.
The eight-member group will seek to reduce the amount of credit card debt students face after graduating from higher education institutions in Illinois and will work with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
A report of findings is due to the General Assembly by Dec. 14, 2019.
House Bill 3661 gave the Illinois Lottery expanded authority to sell various game tickets on its online platform. The bill allows for the online sale of Lotto, Lucky Day Lotto, Mega Millions, Powerball, Pick 3, Pick 4 and other draw games offered at retail locations.
Amid national uncertainty about whether a citizenship question will be included on the 2020 U.S. Census, advocates in Illinois are not changing their approach to ensuring all residents are counted.
“Whether a citizenship question is on the form or not, the damage is done,” said Anita Banerji, director of the Democracy Initiative of the nonprofit organization Forefront. “So you still have to be very intentional and make sure the communities feel safe and protected to self-report.”
Banerji’s comments came one day after U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said his department will send the 2020 U.S. census to print without including a citizenship question, but just hours after President Donald Trump vowed to continue to fight the matter.
“The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.”
By Wednesday afternoon, national news outlets were reporting the administration had reversed course and would seek to include the citizenship question.
Regardless, Banerji said, the mission of Forefront’s Democracy Initiative and other complete count advocates remains unchanged.
Last month, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order aimed at ensuring an accurate count in the 2020 census and touted a $29 million line item for census outreach in this year’s budget.
The stakes of an undercount, Pritzker said, include the loss of up to two congressional seats and $120 million in federal funding annually for each 1 percent of the population that is undercounted.