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May 21, 1999


SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan's plan to build, repair and upgrade Illinois' critical unmet infrastructure needs was approved today by the Illinois General Assembly.

Illinois FIRST -- a Fund for Infrastructure, Roads, Schools and Transit, is a five-year, $12 billion public works program designed by Governor Ryan to address Illinois' aging and deteriorating roads and bridges, unfunded highway construction projects, dilapidated mass transit systems and school construction and repair needs. The program will also fund the clean-up of urban brownfields and other environmental hazards, the upgrade of sewer systems and the improvement of quality-of-life projects throughout the state.

"This is a responsible program that prepares Illinois for the future by addressing critical needs in every corner of the state," Ryan said. "I applaud the members of the General Assembly who have agreed that now is the time to act.

"I want to thank all those who offered their support, guidance and resources to ensure passage of this historic legislation."

The Illinois FIRST legislative package is contained within four Senate Bills.

Senate Bill 1018 sponsored by Senators Stanley Weaver (R-Urbana) and James "Pate" Philip (R-Wood Dale), and Representatives Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago) and Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) deals with the environmental aspects of the program.

Senate vote: 59-0
House vote: 104-11-1

Senate Bill 1028 sponsored by Senator Philip and Representatives Madigan, Lee Daniels (R-Elmhurst) and Currie deals with transportation and mass transit financing.

Senate vote: 42-17
House vote: 74-42

Senate Bill 1066 sponsored by Senators John Maitland (R-Bloomington) and Philip, and Representatives Madigan, Gary Hannig (D-Litchfield) and Currie includes the liquor tax increase and school construction grants.

Senate vote: 42-17
House vote: 70-40-6

Senate Bill 1203 deals with bond authorization and procedures and will be voted on concurrently with the state budget bills.

In February, Governor Ryan appointed a 15-member task force to investigate the extent of the state's infrastructure needs, identify possible financing mechanisms and explore potential strategies for implementation. The Infrastructure Task Force found that 89 percent of Illinois school buildings need repair. 74 percent of the state's interstates have surpassed their 20-year design lifespan. The state hasn't built a new road in nearly a decade, and there is a backlog of 2,400 miles of roads that need repair and 750 bridges that need to be fixed. Our mass transit systems desperately need updated, and in many places, our drinking water and sewer systems need immediate attention. Urban brownfields throughout the state pose serious environmental threats to our communities and must be cleaned-up to protect our environment and spur economic development. Meanwhile, Illinois ranks almost dead last among the states in the amount of public land set aside for conservation and recreation.

The main components of Illinois FIRST are:

Transportation: A $4.1 billion supplement to the state's existing surface and air transportation program for roads, rail and air infrastructure.

  • $3.7 billion for highways, roads and bridges that will lead to the repair of an additional 1,000 miles of road and an additional 125 bridges not now included in the state's annual road repair and construction program.
  • A $160 million addition for improvement projects at airports across Illinois, including $75 million dedicated to land acquisition and planning of a new regional airport for Northeastern Illinois at the Peotone site in Will County.
  • A $100 million supplement to continue preparing existing rail lines for the advent of high-speed passenger and freight rail service. And $45 million for railroad grade crossing safety improvements across the state.
  • A $50 million allocation to replace more than nine million license plates.

    Transit: A $4.1 billion allocation for bus, rail and other mass transportation infrastructure needs in Northeastern Illinois and other cities with established transit districts.

  • The Regional Transportation Authority -- Pace, Metra and the Chicago Transit Authority -- to borrow $1.6 billion for improvement projects that will enable the authority capture more than $2 billion in federal funds that have never been available for Illinois projects because of the lack of matching state resources. With these resources, the CTA can rebuild the Douglas Blue Line, expand service on the Ravenswood Brown Line and restore the fare subsidy for students and seniors.
  • The RTA can proceed with badly needed rail transit projects into the suburbs and rebuild aging infrastructures on other lines.
  • A $35 million supplement to help rehabilitate mass transit systems in downstate cities.

    Schools: A $2.2 billion allocation to the state's existing school construction fund.

  • The expansion of the existing program will include $1 billion in state bonded resources, combined with $1 billion in matching funds from local school districts. Also, $125 million will be available for "pay-as-you-go" projects in districts that can match the state's commitment.

    Fund for Illinois' Future: A $1.6 billion allocation for projects in local communities to bolster the state's economy, promote a clean environment and improve the overall quality of life throughout Illinois.

  • Local water and sewer projects.
  • Brownfield and landfill mediation and redevelopment.
  • Local redevelopment projects.
  • Bike trails, parks and local recreation and sports facilities.
  • Resource preservation projects.
  • Non-bondable school or university repairs and improvements.
  • Assistance for local jails or juvenile detention centers.
  • Local railroad grade crossing safety improvements.
  • Historic preservation.
  • Technology infrastructure improvements.

    Under the Illinois FIRST program:

  • Total new revenues generated by increased fees total $573 million. An additional $48 million in new revenues will be included by reducing the annual diversion of Road Funds money for non-highway purposes. In this plan, $48 million a year in Road Funds previously used for non-highway purposes will be dedicated for Illinois FIRST projects.

  • Vehicle registration fees will increase from $48 annually to $78 annually, with corresponding increases for all vehicle registrations, generating $249 million in new revenue annually. The $78 fee will be less than half of the $180 national average and less than half of the $163 Midwestern average. The increase in the vehicle registration fee would cost the owner of a car 8 cents-a-day.

  • Large truck and trailer registrations will increase 25 percent -- generating $78 million annually. For a 50,000-pound truck, the annual fee would change from $1,228 to $1,535. For an 80,000-pound truck, the annual fee would change from $2,232 to $2,790. The changes will raise these fees moderately above the national average of $1,295 for a 50,000-pound truck and $2,503 for an 80,000-pound truck

  • Title transfer fees would increase from $13 to $65 -- generating $166 million annually.

  • Alcohol taxes will be increased slightly above the national average -- generating $80 million annually. Under the program, the state tax on a six-pack of beer will increase by 6 cents, from 4 cents-a-six-pack to 10 cents; the state tax on low-alcohol content wine will increase 10 cents from 5 cents-a bottle to 15 cents; and the state tax on high-alcohol content wine will increase 3 cents from 12 cents-a-bottle to 15 cents. The state tax on a bottle of distilled spirits will increase 50 cents, from 40 cents-per-bottle to 90 cents-per-bottle.

  • Senior citizens who are a part of the circuit breaker program for vehicle registrations will be "held harmless" and will still pay the current registration rates -- at a cost of $1 million. Under this provision, seniors qualifying for the circuit breaker will continue to pay $24 annually for a basic automobile registration.

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