Lawmakers in Springfield passed a bipartisan stopgap budget on Thursday, June 30. In addition to keeping the government open and programs running through the rest of 2016, the bill also included funding for education and transportation that runs through 2017. While there is plenty more work which must be done, the stopgap budget is a tremendous step in the right direction and will have a number of positive impacts on the Quad Cities and our economy.
K-12 Education: One of the biggest barriers of compromise has been education funding. The Quad Cities economy is powered by having a highly skilled and educated workforce, so it is imperative that our schools are properly funded. The deal reached will provide full-funding through 2017, and includes increased funding for early childhood and districts with high percentages of low-income families.
Post-secondary Education: Higher education received funding through 2016, including funding for Western Illinois University’s operations and full-funding for MAP Grants, which are vital for local colleges and students’ funding.
Transportation and Infrastructure: Transportation received almost $2 billion to cover operations and projects through 2017. Included in that was full-funding for Quad Cities-Chicago passenger rail. Governor Rauner and Illinois Department of Transportation recommitted to the project last week, and have provided assurances that federal funding will remain intact. The funding included in the stopgap budget means other projects such as the I-74 Bridge and John Deere Road expansions will continue as well.
Budget, Workers Comp, Energy Remain Priorities
There are still a number of priorities that need to be addressed. The Quad Cities Chamber continues to advocate for passage of the Next Generation Energy Plan. This bill will provide a clean energy plan for Illinois going forward and ensure that nuclear energy is able to compete economically. Without this legislation, Exelon will close the Quad Cities plant in 2018 and the Clinton plant in 2017, which will mean thousands of quality jobs lost and will severely hurt county and school finances.
Finally, while the stopgap budget passed last week is significant, the need for next year’s budget remains. The Quad Cities Chamber will continue to push the importance of the budget fully funding all of its obligations. Cuts or lack of funding for human services and a plethora of other programs have hurt vital and often vulnerable parts of our local economy. We need strong reforms in workers compensation, which continues to burden businesses and inhibit Illinois’ ability to be competitive. Finally, Illinois must reform its redistricting process and adopt a fair process that allows for government to better function.
The Chamber looks forward to working with the legislature on reforming pensions, which were agreed to be passed this year.