Politics & Government

From splash pad to spillway: How will our higher taxes be used?

Pritzker discusses a capital bill

Gov. J.B. Pritzker discusses his desire for a capital bill. He also talks about possible funding sources.
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Gov. J.B. Pritzker discusses his desire for a capital bill. He also talks about possible funding sources.

During the spring legislative session, legislators and first year Gov. J.B. Pritzker sought to implement a program that would invest in the state’s infrastructure. What the state received was a six-year $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan.

But the state has to pay for it.

Funding for the capital infrastructure program includes a gambling expansion, increased fees at the driver’s services office, doubling of the gas tax, and a higher tax on tobacco.

Pending the governor’s signature, the gas tax is slated to increase to 38 cents per gallon, from 19 cents per gallon starting on July 1. The gas tax then would be pegged to the rate of inflation to help keep up with the costs of roadwork.

Cigarette taxes also increased to $2.98 per pack up from $1.98 per pack. There’s also a 15% wholesale tax on e-cigarettes, beginning July 1.

Vehicle registration fees will increase to $151 to help pay for roadwork. Those fees would go into effect for people who renew their license plates next year.

Electric vehicle registration also would get more expensive under the capital plan. Registration of an electric vehicle will cost $248 a year, instead of $35 for two years.

So what do we get in return?

The planned spending includes:

  • $33.2 billion for transportation projects.
  • $4.3 billion for state facilities including deferred maintenance, among other things.
  • $3.5 billion for education projects.
  • $1.9 billion for economic and community development.
  • $1.2 billion for environment and conservation projects.
  • $465 million for health care and human services.
  • $420 million for broadband deployment.

Included in the capital bill is $355 million for downstate public transportation systems, and $100 million for passenger rail improvements from Chicago to Carbondale.

In southwestern Illinois, including the metro-east, there is at least $305 million worth of spending planned as part of the capital bill appropriations.

The capital bill also sets aside $96 million to extend MetroLink from the Shiloh-Scott station out to MidAmerica Airport.

“It’s a big win for the region,” said Ken Sharkey, the managing director of the St. Clair County Transit District.

However plans for expanding the St. Louis-area light-rail system still need to be finalized.

“We have to work with partners at Bi-State Development and Metro, it’s in cooperation with them. They operate the system, they’ll be involved,” Sharkey said.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, some projects may take a year or so to get started.

“The real key, is the lack of deferred maintenance that has been going on in previous years,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said there would be funding for road, bridge and transit projects.

“This is about safety, it’s about quality of life, it’s about job creation, (and) it’s about building a stronger Illinois,” Hoffman said on the House floor when legislators approved the capital bill legislation.

Not everyone was thrilled with the higher taxes and fees to pay for the capital bill. State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, voted no on the capital plan.

“Although Illinois has a real need for transportation infrastructure improvements, I am unable to support a plan that is based on extreme DMV fee increases and a doubling of motor fuel taxes,” Schimpf said. “By leaving the current sales tax on fuel in place, the state is taxing drivers twice on every gallon. This double taxation on gasoline sales will disproportionately harm my constituents. We have a moral obligation to try reduce costs before we ask the hard working families of Illinois to pay a cent more.”

Here is a list of projects that are among those listed in the 362-page capital spending bill:

  • $105.3 million for a health sciences building and other improvements at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • $96 million for an expansion of MetroLink from Scott Air Force Base to MidAmerica Airport
  • $37.5 million for main complex renovation and repairs at Lewis and Clark Community College
  • $24.4 million for the U.S. 67 Delhi Bypass in Jersey County
  • $24 million for miscellaneous capital improvements at SIUE
  • $2 million for East St. Louis for demolition of derelict buildings and abandoned properties
  • $1.6 million for capital improvements at the intersection of Hartman Lane and Central Park in O’Fallon
  • $1.4 million for a lift station repair in Granite City
  • $1.23 million for the Pleasant Ridge Road project in Fairview Heights
  • $1 million for the East Side Health District in East St. Louis capital improvements for urban farming and clinic services
  • $750,000 for improvements in Clinton Hills Conservation Park in Swansea
  • $700,000 for a sanitary sewer extension along Illinois 159 and 162 in Maryville
  • $592,000 for a Broadway Street expansion in Alton
  • $575,000 for infrastructure improvements on Hollywood Heights and Hill roads in Caseyville
  • $450,000 for playground equipment in Central Park in Wood River
  • $360,000 for for the exhibit replacements at the National Great Rivers Museum
  • $350,000 for to repave Franklin Avenue in East Alton
  • $300,000 for a splash pad in Belleville
  • $300,000 for electronic water meter purchases in South Roxana
  • $250,000 for capital improvements at Alton’s Salu Park
  • $250,000 for improvements at Challenge Unlimited in Alton
  • $250,000 for a museum in Bethalto
  • $250,000 for a waterline extension in South Roxana
  • $200,000 for a Morrison Avenue extension in Alton
  • $200,000 for YMCA capital improvements in Edwardsville
  • $200,000 for Erickson Hall renovations at Lewis and Clark Community College
  • $200,000 for the Bicentennial Park spillway reconstruction in Belleville
  • $200,000 for a bike trail in west Belleville
  • $150,000 for improvements at the Lewis and Clark Museum in Hartford
  • $150,000 for accessibility improvements on South Lake Drive in Pontoon Beach
  • $100,000 for environmental remediation of a former greenhouse business and teardown in Belleville
  • $100,000 for emergency warning sirens in Granite City
  • $100,000 for police department renovation in Swansea
  • $90,000 for improvements at the Bethalto Boys and Girls Club
  • $88,000 for license plate recognition cameras and other capital improvements for Glen Carbon
  • $80,000 for a Bicentennial Park walking trail in Belleville
  • $76,000 for community care center improvements in Granite City
  • $40,000 for an emergency transport vehicle for the Metro Bike Link trail in Swansea
  • $20,000 for the Alton Boys and Girls Club

State senators held a committee hearing at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville on Monday on a possible capital bill. Possible projects and funding sources were discussed.

Money also was set aside for infrastructure improvements or demolition of derelict or abandoned buildings in specific municipalities through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

  • Alorton - $150,000
  • Belleville - $500,000
  • Brooklyn - $100,000
  • Cahokia - $625,000
  • Caseyville - $50,000
  • Centreville - $200,000
  • Columbia - $325,000
  • Dupo - $225,000
  • East St. Louis - $500,000
  • East St. Louis Pop Myles facility - $250,000
  • Fairview Heights - $200,000
  • Freeburg - $25,000
  • Fairmont - $100,000
  • Granite City - $200,000
  • Lebanon - $100,000
  • Madison - $200,000
  • Marissa - $225,000
  • Mascoutah - $25,000
  • Millstadt - $100,000
  • O’Fallon - $25,000
  • Red Bud - $325,000
  • Sauget - $225,000
  • Shiloh - $100,000
  • Sparta - $325,000
  • Steeleville - $325,000
  • Swansea - $50,000
  • Venice - $100,000
  • Washington Park - $200,000
  • Waterloo - $325,000

A capital bill was one of Pritzker’s goal during his first year in office.

“After years of neglecting our state’s roads, bridges, mass transit, and buildings, Illinoisans’ health and safety have been jeopardized, and job creation has been hindered,” Pritzker said in a statement. “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.”

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.