On February 19, Governor Pritzker delivered his budget message for the state of Illinois. The Governor is once again recommending a maintenance budget with proposed increased spending for child welfare, public education, and pension payments. In order to afford these increases, the Governor is focused on passing the Fair Tax Constitutional Amendment.
With regard to natural resources and environmental issues, the Governor recommended stable appropriations of state funds for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency. This will maintain funding for these agencies at a level similar to FY20. The proposed budget also fully funds the Illinois Power Agency to implement the state renewable energy programs.
We know we need to staff up key agencies like IEPA and the Department of Agriculture. After years of budget cuts and declining staff numbers, the Governor has indicated his support for investing in these critical agencies. Unfortunately, actual headcounts at IEPA and Department of Agriculture did not increase in the last year as much as the Governor’s FY2020 proposed budget recommended. In the 2021 proposal, the Governor again recommends increasing staffing numbers at IEPA by 90 positions. The governor proposed increasing the Department of Agriculture staff by 66 positions. The 2021 proposed headcount at IDNR would remain the same as last year. Proposed staffing numbers are still well below previous years, but we are hopeful that the state meets these hiring goals in FY2021.
Capitol and Infrastructure Funding
A quick review of the Governor’s maintenance capital budget for next year does not show funding for unwise projects such as the Illiana Tollway or the Peotone Airport. This baseline capital program is a mix of core capital programs and reauthorizations of existing, previously approved projects.
Key Budget Line Items
The Governor’s proposed budget maintains programs of interest to the environmental community, and our initial reaction to the Governor’s budget has been positive. Among the positive elements in the Governor’s proposed FY 2021 Budget are:
- Stable or increased funding for natural resource and environmental protection.
- Full funding of open space (OSLAD and OLT) and natural areas (NAAF).
- $52.8 million to execute the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act to ensure proper remediation of power plants’ coal ash waste.
- $50 million for the Illinois Solar for All Program.
- $89 million in new and reappropriated funds from the Volkswagen Settlement; ELPC has advocated strongly for more investment in electric school buses.
- $2.5 million to allow DNR to partner with the Army Corps of Engineers on Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet to fight against Asian carp.
- $399.3 million in reappropriations from Rebuild Illinois funded initiatives such as Transportation Electrification, the Illinois Green Infrastructure Grant Program, and waste water grants.
This is a good first step, we will be actively tracking the budget process and advocating for environmental progress throughout the legislative session