Governor Quinn Cuts State Budget; Uses Veto Authority to Reduce Budget by $250 Million; Orders Sale of Nearly Half of State's Airplanes
CHICAGO – Governor Quinn today cut Illinois’ Fiscal Year 2015 state budget, zeroing out $250 million for renovations of the state Capitol. In addition, as part of his ongoing budget review, the Governor directed state agencies to identify additional efficiencies, including selling nearly half of the state’s aircraft.
Last week, the Governor announced more than $55 million in efficiencies including reduced parking and reduced leases. Since taking office, Governor Quinn has cut state spending by more than $5.7 billion and today’s action continues the Governor's commitment to making state government more efficient and accountable to taxpayers.
“While legislators didn't do their job on the budget, I will continue to do mine,” Governor Quinn said. “Reducing the budget and identifying additional efficiencies will help minimize the impact of cuts in vital services and maintain our hard-won fiscal gains. While there's more work to do, we must ensure the state lives within its means.”
The Governor’s reductions include vetoing $250 million in appropriations for renovations to the state Capitol building. While ensuring the Capitol building is modern and accessible to all people in Illinois is a priority, the state cannot afford to move forward with additional renovations this year. In 2013, the Governor halted renovations at the Capitol after excessive flourishes and spending by the architect was brought to his attention.
As part of the budget review which commenced June 1, the Governor directed his administration to conduct a thorough review of the state's aircraft to determine the state's needs. Selling nearly half the state's air fleet continues the Governor's commitment to making Illinois government more efficient while ensuring travel for official state business continues.
Currently the state owns 21 aircraft and spends more than $7 million to operate and maintain the fleet each year. Governor Quinn today instructed the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to put nine aircraft – including seven from the Illinois Department of Transportation and two from the Illinois State Police – on the market while maintaining several aircraft to continue state government operations.
Last week the Governor directed state agencies to cut 80 paid parking spaces for state employees in downtown garages – more than 30 percent of the total spots reserved. The move will save taxpayers more than $100,000 annually. He also again reduced lease costs for government buildings that will save taxpayers an additional $55 million this year.
In March, the Governor submitted a balanced budget plan that continued paying down the state's bills, protected education and public safety, and secured Illinois’ long-term financial future, but legislators instead postponed the tough budget decisions.
Governor Quinn Announces $2.2 Million Investment for Conservation Land Acquisition; includes Recent Purchase of Land Needed for Kickapoo Trail in Eastern Illinois
URBANA – Governor Pat Quinn today announced investments totaling more than $2.2 million to acquire land for conservation and recreational purposes across Illinois. The investments include $209,000 to acquire a key piece of land for the Kickapoo Trail, a 24.5-mile bicycle path linking Urbana to Kickapoo State Park. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to conserve the state’s natural areas and increase opportunities for people to enjoy the Illinois outdoors.
“The Kickapoo Trail is an outstanding example of local communities and non-profit groups working side-by-side with state and federal government to get important projects off the drawing board and into development,” Governor Quinn said. “This trail has been years in the making and it took everyone pulling together to get us to this point. The state of Illinois is full of natural treasures and today’s investments will ensure that these lands are enjoyed for generations to come. ”
The $2.2 million comes from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Open Lands Trust (OLT), a dedicated fund used to acquire important natural and recreational areas for public use. Funds are appropriated by the Illinois General Assembly. OLT Funds also can be used to help communities leverage additional funds to protect land for conservation and recreation.
“These funds – which include federal dollars I secured in past transportation and appropriations bills – bring the Kickapoo bike trail one step closer to reality,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said. “When it opens, this project will give Illinoisans from Urbana to Danville an opportunity to walk, jog and bike close to home and enjoy the outdoor spaces in their own backyard.”
“The Open Lands Trust Fund is an important tool that allows DNR to step in to help match federal dollars,” IDNR Director Marc Miller said. “Without it, state and local governments would have a harder time capturing available federal dollars to complete projects like this one.”
Today’s announcements include a $209,000 investment to purchase a section of the right-of-way for the Kickapoo Trail. The purchase was recently finalized and consists of 19.3 acres of the former CSX Railroad right-of-way within the current boundaries of Kickapoo State Park. This purchase, which has been in negotiations for more than a year, allowed Kickapoo Trail developers to secure an additional $2.1 million in federal Transportation Enhancement Funds last year.
During the past year, Open Lands Trust Funds have been used to make other key acquisitions statewide. These include:
Jubilee College State Park
The property consists of 126.26 acres adjacent to Jubilee College State Park in Peoria County. This property is an excellent addition to the park due to its diverse habitat, potential for restoration and location to serve as a buffer for the park. This parcel was protected from future housing developments.
Big Bend State Fish & Wildlife Area
The property consists of 274.26 acres and became an addition to Big Bend State Fish and Wildlife Area in Whiteside County. It is located east of Erie and west of Portland with the Rock River defining its northern boundary. The parcel is a three-sided in-holding that fits nicely with the existing site and serves migrating waterfowl and supports bottomland forest communities.
The property is enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Program. IDNR’s Division of Wildlife has worked with Whiteside County to protect the wetland since the program’s inception. Acquisition of this parcel will offer additional hunting opportunities at the site.
Cretaceous Hills State Natural Area
The property consists of 263.32 acres and became a part of Cretaceous Hills State Natural Area in Pope County. Cretaceous Hills State Natural Area is one of the best examples of a barrens natural community in Illinois, a mixed community of grass and stunted trees growing in thin soils. Prior to this acquisition, IDNR owned 237 acres here, all of it dedicated nature preserve. The preserve provides habitat for 17 endangered plant and animal species.
The property has good access with a gravel road on the east side and offers recreational opportunities including wildlife observation, hunting and hiking. The property will likely support deer and turkey hunting. Development of a small parking lot to support public hunting could be established on the east boundary.
Governor Quinn Signs Law to Help Military Families Enroll Children in Illinois Schools; Streamlines Transfer Process and Eliminates School Roadblocks for Children with One or More Parents Serving in the Armed Forces
MASCOUTAH – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to make it easier for military families to enroll their children in Illinois schools. The law eliminates many of the educational roadblocks these families face when their military assignments take them from one state to another. Today's action is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to honor and support Illinois’ military veterans and their families.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to our many Illinois servicemembers and their families,” Governor Quinn said. “When a military family has to pick up and move to Illinois, we need to make sure the process is worry-free, especially when it comes to enrolling in a new school. This new law will ensure that our children of military parents are supported during the school transfer process so they can join their new classmates without delay.”
House Bill 3939, sponsored by State Representative Eddie Lee Jackson Sr. (D-East St. Louis) and State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), streamlines the health and academic record transfer process for out-of-state elementary and high school students with one or more parents serving in the United States Armed Forces. This allows children to be enrolled in Illinois schools at any time during the year without unnecessary delays. The law also updates Illinois’ portion of the Educational Opportunity for Military Children Act regarding such issues as non-custodial parents, tuition, educational records, enrollment age, course placement, graduation, extracurricular activities and absences related to deployment activities. The law is effective immediately.
“Men and women who move to our state to serve in the military are making huge sacrifices to protect our freedoms,” Representative Jackson said. “This legislation helps make sure that their families have the support that they need to make their transitions as smooth as possible. Students who transfer schools because of their parents’ active duty status should not have barriers preventing them from enrolling in schools or participating in school sports and activities.”
“These families give up so much in order to serve in our military,” Senator Bush said. “The least we can do is ensure that school transfers are as easy on their children as possible.”
Throughout his career, Governor Quinn has made commitment to veterans, servicemembers and their families a top priority. He initiated the Illinois Veterans Grant and Illinois National Guard Grant, which cover tuition at all Illinois public universities and community colleges for eligible veterans and serving National Guard members.
The Governor has also championed the Military Family Relief Fund, which has provided more than $15.1 million in support to families of deployed National Guard and Reserve servicemembers since its inception 10 years ago. He also required colleges to post all benefits available to Illinois veterans and assign a staff member to serve as the point of contact for student-veterans who need information and assistance.
Additionally, in 2012, Governor Quinn and the Departments of Veterans and Military Affairs spearheaded the statewide public-private partnership, Illinois Joining Forces, which has been a model for other states to follow. The program Families, Children, and Survivors Working Group has been effectively collaborating to make sure Illinois is addressing the needs of military families and children here in Illinois.
Governor Quinn Signs Law Promoting the Purchase of Solar-Produced Electricity in Illinois
Legislation Will Help Lead Illinois on Path towards Sustainability
CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to promote the purchase of solar-produced electricity in Illinois. The law requires that a special existing fund be used to purchase solar power and emphasizes the development of distributed solar generation, such as the installation of solar panels on residential rooftops. Today's action is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to protect the state’s natural resources and ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.
“These last days of June are some of the longest of the year, the perfect time to talk about getting more of our electricity from solar,” Governor Quinn said. “Thousands of residents will soon get cheaper, cleaner energy, and we will create good paying jobs for working families in the process. It’s this sort of innovation that has made Illinois a national leader in clean energy production.”
House Bill 2427, sponsored by State Representative Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), requires the Illinois Power Agency to use up to $30 million to purchase solar power to meet a portion of the state's electric power needs. The money comes from the agency's Renewable Energy Resources Fund, which is made up of clean energy fees paid by power suppliers in Illinois. The law establishes a competitive procurement process to purchase energy from existing solar devices and from new solar installations, which could mean thousands of new solar panel installations on homes in Illinois. These panels help power homes in a clean, healthy way and reduce homeowners’ electric bills by allowing residents to sell excess power to the grid. Existing and new utility-scale solar projects will benefit from the legislation as well. The law is effective immediately.
“These funds will jump start the solar economy in Illinois, creating jobs and new industries,” Representative Gabel said.
“Increasing our investment in clean energy creates jobs, protects the environment and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels,” Senator Harmon said. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen wind energy take off in Illinois. I hope that this investment starts a similar revolution in solar energy.”
“We commend Governor Quinn and the General Assembly for advancing solar energy development in Illinois. House Bill 2724 will jumpstart the solar industry in Illinois, create hundreds of good paying jobs, and help homeowners throughout Illinois gain clean renewable energy for their homes,” Environmental Law & Policy Center President Howard Learner said.
The Illinois Power Agency was established by law in 2007 to develop procurement plans to ensure adequate, reliable, affordable, efficient and environmentally sustainable electric service at the lowest total cost for residential and small commercial customers of Ameren and ComEd. The procurement plans include electricity generated from renewable sources and from traditional sources.
Since taking office, Governor Quinn has led Illinois on a path towards sustainability. He currently serves on President Barack Obama’s Task Force on Climate Change and Resilience to advise the federal government on how to respond to the needs of individual communities affected by climate change.
Over 330 wind, solar and geothermal companies are located in Illinois. Chicago alone is home to 13 global or U.S. headquarters of major wind power companies, more than any other city in the nation.
Illinois also ranks first among all states in the nation in purchasing green energy and its energy efficiency programs rank in the top ten in the U.S., the only non-coastal state to do so. Illinois is also fourth among states in wind production, largely due to Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).
In February, the U.S. Green Building Council ranked Illinois number one among all 50 states in the sustainable building design movement. Illinois has more than 29 million square feet of certified green buildings, or 2.29 square feet for every resident. Utilizing less energy and water, LEED-certified spaces save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce carbon emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.
The Governor’s Illinois Jobs Now! program is the greenest public works program in the nation. It funds mass transit, electric vehicle infrastructure expansion, renewable fuels, high-speed rail as well as an ambitious state government construction and renovation plan that will save the state money and have a lasting environmental impact. It also funds the Governor’s highly successful Weatherization Assistance for Low Income Persons program that has helped 25,000 Illinois homes save energy and money through the winter.
In addition, Illinois’ $1 billion Illinois Clean Water Initiative expands funding for wastewater and drinking water projects for Illinois communities so all of Illinois has access to clean water.
Governor Quinn Takes Bill Action on Friday, June 27, 2014
CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today took action on the following bills:
Bill No.: HB 3796
An Act Concerning: Government
Amends the Freedom of Information Act to provide procedures for voluminous requests and provides that records already posted online do not have to be duplicated.
Bill No.: HB 4501
An Act Concerning: Public Health
Grants homeless and other minors starting at age 14 the ability to consent to primary care medical services.
Effective: Oct. 1, 2014
Bill No.: SB 2761
An Act Concerning: State Government
Extends the repeal date for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Target Market Program to June 30, 2017.