After ten years with no action, the Illinois State House and Senate came together shortly after their scheduled adjournment to pass a $45 billion construction bill, awaiting signature by Governor J.B. Pritzker.
“Rebuild Illinois” is the largest construction program in state history. In previous years, Illinois had bonded construction projects, which led to spikes in construction, but was followed by lean years of little state expenditure. This bill funds a 10-year program to repair and maintain roads, bridges, water, sewer, rail, transit, air and other infrastructure requirements.
All of this requires funding: gasoline will go from 19 cents to 38 cents per gallon, diesel from 21.5 cents to 45.5 cents, adjusted for inflation; vehicle registration will go from $102 to $152 annually and electric vehicles will go from $17.50 to $252. Previously, Illinois voters approved a “lock box” on transportation funding, meaning the state cannot move dollars from designated transportation funding for other Illinois programs.
The gasoline tax increase and the infrastructure bill won votes from both Republicans and Democrats.
Governor J.B. Pritzker said when signing the bill, “I'm proud that the state is on the verge of adopting a bipartisan infrastructure plan for the first time in a decade. Our plan to rebuild our roads, bridges and communities will create hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout our state. The Rebuild Illinois plan will reinvigorate our economy and strengthen our rightful status as the transportation and supply chain hub of the nation.”
"For too long, Illinois has let its critical infrastructure fall apart only to try to put the pieces back together through short periods of investment," said Laborers International Union of North America Vice President John Penn. "That downward cycle was due to the state's poor fiscal health. Now, thanks to Gov. Pritzker's leadership, Illinois workers will be in position to continually improve the condition of our schools, roads and other infrastructure without sacrificing investment in other important state services."
The bill not only includes transportation, but also building construction for state institutions. In central Illinois this includes $89.205 million to Illinois State University for Milner Library updates, plus another $40.408 million for other improvements, which will include the Center for Visual Arts. Illinois Central College in East Peoria will receive $5.163 million for Edwards Building renovation plus roads and parking lots.
Plus state legislators have received a funding portion that can apportion to cities, towns and counties in their district.
All these projects will require the Illinois construction Prevailing Wage; in most of the state, this is equivalent to union wages and benefits.
Progressive Income Tax
To financially stabilize Illinois, Illinois Democrats also successfully passed a constitutional referendum that will allow a progressive income tax in Illinois. Currently, all citizens, whether low-income or billionaires, pay the same “flat” tax rate.
This proposal would allow a graduated income tax; individuals earning more than $250,001 annually would pay a higher income tax rate. Changing the state constitution requires a ballot vote, so this proposal will appear at the next election. Unlike the transportation bill, this legislation attracted little Republican support, winning with a Democratic majority.
At the time of passage, Pritzker said: “A fair tax will bring monumental change to this state by protecting working families. 97 percent of taxpayers will pay the same or less, and we will stabilize Illinois' finances. Opponents should be honest that they offer bad options - either cutting schools and public safety to the bone, or raising taxes on everyone by 20 percent. Instead, I stand firmly on the side of working families and fairness."