citizen in Illinois deserves a chance for a better future," Gov.
Blagojevich said at the Transportation for Illinois Coalition rally.
"Since we've launched Opportunity Returns, we're creating more
genuine economic opportunity across this state and providing people
with the tools they need to fulfill their dreams. We're at the
precipice of putting Illinois at the forefront of scientific
discovery, building upon our world-class road and rail
transportation system, developing a clean and comprehensive energy
policy, and becoming a national leader in entrepreneurial activity.
But our work isn't done. By approving a capital bill this spring, we
can support the projects that are most essential to building more
vibrant communities, delivering on the vast economic potential of
this state and creating thousands of good jobs across Illinois in
the months and years ahead."
The Transportation for Illinois Coalition, which sponsored the
rally, is co-chaired by Illinois AFL-CIO President Margaret
Blackshere and Illinois State Chamber of Commerce President Doug
In its first year and a half,
Opportunity Returns has managed to stimulate real economic growth in
Illinois by attracting investment, upgrading worker skills,
increasing access to capital and fostering an innovative, attractive
business climate. The financial commitments made through Opportunity
Returns are using innovative partnerships to leverage more funding
at the federal, state, local and private level, all of which are
being poured directly into efforts to help businesses thrive and
create more jobs.
Should the General Assembly fail to
pass a capital spending bill, a host of projects poised to make a
major economic impact in communities across the state would be
without the critical funding needed to go forward. Some of those key
projects are as follows: supporting Northwestern University's
Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, constructing Technology
Boulevard in Peoria and improving the Peoria Port District,
fostering technology development at EIGER Lab in Rockford, widening
of the Illinois 173 interchange in Machesney Park and Interstate 55
in Bloomington-Normal, constructing the U.S. 34 Extension in
Monmouth and the Route 336 Western Bypass in Macomb, completing the
Galena Bypass, expanding Western Illinois University-Quad Cities'
campus, supporting the new Engineering Building at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and extending Fourth Street in
Champaign, building an interchange on Interstate 57 in Coles County,
constructing U.S. Route 67 in Jerseyville, widening Illinois Route
13 to six lanes, and constructing the Technology Education Center at
Southern Illinois University.
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"The governor has proposed an
aggressive capital program for the upcoming year that provides for
critical road construction and improvements across our state,"
Blackshere said. "Labor will work for the passage of this $1.72
billion program that will create much-needed jobs. The fact is,
commerce in our state cannot grow and thrive without quality roads
and our workers cannot provide for their families without
good-paying jobs. The General Assembly needs to implement this
capital program without delay."
To finance these capital projects,
Gov. Blagojevich has proposed a moderate increase in cigarette and
cigar taxes, which would bring in an estimated $150 million in
additional annual revenue. The governor also proposes using a
portion of that revenue to help pay for KidCare and FamilyCare,
programs that would expand health care coverage to the people who
need it most.
Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is
the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in
Illinois' history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic
development just doesn't work, the governor has divided the state
into 10 regions, each with a regional team that is empowered and
expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges.
Opportunity Returns is about
tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more
marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses.
It is about upgrading the skills of the local work force, increasing
the access to capital, opening new markets, improving
infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns
is about successfully partnering with companies and communities,
both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic