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May 4, 1999


SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today proposed the creation of Illinois FIRST, a sweeping, $12 billion public works program that will rebuild and expand the state's roads and highways, renovate mass transit systems, repair and enlarge schools and meet the varied needs of local communities as they enter the new millennium.

Illinois FIRST -- a Fund for Infrastructure, Roads, Schools & Transit -- will be the largest public works program in the history of the state, dwarfing previous efforts to meet critical infrastructure needs. Ryan unveiled the five-year initiative during a speech to a joint session of the General Assembly and asked legislators to enact the proposal this spring before the scheduled May 21 adjournment.

"Illinois FIRST reaches into every corner of our state. It addresses needs that are urban, suburban and rural," Ryan said. "It presents us with the opportunity to prepare our state for the future. And it gives us the chance to make sure that we leave our children a better Illinois than the one we inherited."

To finance this initiative, the governor is seeking legislative approval for $621 million in new revenues from the state's vehicle registration fees for automobiles, light trucks and large trucks; vehicle title transfer fee and the state's tax on alcoholic beverages.

The main components of Illinois FIRST are:

The Transportation 21 Plan: 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 $150 million supplement for railroad grade crossing safety improvements across the state And $100 million to continue preparing existing rail lines for the advent of for high-speed passenger and freight rail service.
  • A $50 million allocation to replace more than nine million license plates, including some that have been on the road for as long as 17 years.

    The Transit 2000 Plan: 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 more than $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.

    The Classroom 21 Plan: 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.

    The 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.

    Financing for the four component funds will be accomplished through a combination of state, federal and local resources. The State of Illinois will increase its current bond debt by $4.3 billion. In addition, the state will allocate $2 billion for projects that can be funded on a pay-as-you-go basis over the next five years. In all, the state's funding commitment will total $6.3 billion.

    That commitment will allow state government to leverage $3 billion in available federal construction funds that currently are not available for Illinois projects because the state lacks the appropriate federal matching dollars. The state's resource commitment also will allow the RTA to sell $1.6 billion in bonds for needed mass transit projects in Northeastern Illinois.

    Local governments, primarily school districts, will be asked to contribute $1.1 billion in matching funds toward the Classroom 21 Fund, a requirement of the existing school construction fund program.

    The governor also outlined a revenue package that will provide $621.8 million in funds annually to support the spending program.

    In suggesting a combination of new revenues, he noted that none of the proposals affect the state's income or sales tax rates or increase the state's motor fuel tax.

    "In my estimation, the cost to each person is far less than the benefits we can create," Ryan said. "Illinois FIRST will not endanger our credit rating, will not take money away from schools and social services and will not deflate our strong economy. Illinois FIRST will create jobs and keep people working now -- and make our economy stronger in the future."

    Ryan proposed a $48 increase in the annual vehicle registration fee for cars and light trucks, which currently stands at $48 for most vehicles. Ryan noted that even with these increases, Illinois will rank 31st among the states in the total cost a motorist must pay to register a vehicle. Among the seven Midwest states, Illinois ranks 6th for the total state and local fees motorists must pay each year to register their vehicles. This increase will generate $398.4 million annually.

    Ryan proposed a 15 percent increase in yearly registration fees paid by the owners of large trucks, the cost of which varies along a sliding scale. These increase will generate $43 million annually. The owner of a 50,000-pound truck would see their annual registration rate change from the current $1,228 to $1,412. The owner of an 80,000-pound truck would see rates change from the current $2,232 to $2,566. The proposed new rates are close to the national average for large truck fees and below the rates charged in other major states including Virginia, California, North Carolina and New York.

    The governor is seeking a $37 increase in the $13 fee charged to transfer a vehicle title from one owner to another -- a boost that will generate $118.4 million annually.

    The final piece of the revenue package is an increase in the state's liquor tax -- the first in 30 years -- that will raise the state rates on beer, wine and distilled spirits to the national median and generate $62 million a year.

    The rate for distilled spirits will change from $2 per gallon to $3.25 per gallon, which is the national average rate. With the change, consumers will pay a total of 25 cents in state taxes on a bottle of whiskey.

    The rate for beer will change from 7 cents per gallon to 18.5 cents per gallon, which is the national average rate. With the change, consumers will pay a total of 5.5 cents in state taxes on a six pack of beer.

    The rate for low-alcoholic content wine will change from 23 cents per gallon to 73 cents per gallon. The rate for high-alcohol content wine will change from 60 cents per gallon to 73 cents per gallon. In each case, consumers will be paying the national average rate in Illinois, or a total of 25 cents in state taxes for a bottle of wine.

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