takes major step toward becoming the only state to give every 3- and
4- year-old access to high-quality preschool
[MAY 5, 2006]
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich applauded
the Illinois General Assembly on Thursday for a successful
legislative session and for passing a $45.8 billion operating budget
that does not raise taxes and ensures:
become the only state to start giving all 3- and 4-year-olds in
the state access to preschool.
families will receive help with the high cost of college
will have smaller class sizes.
income veterans will have access to health care.
will be able to get help for a wide range of needs in one place.
More nurses will be
trained and ready to serve patients in Illinois.
will have DNA results significantly faster as more tests are
done in state labs, and more police officers will be on the
More women will
receive breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment.
Businesses will see
the time it takes to receive state licenses reduced from 19
weeks down to one to four weeks.
guarantee access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance
to all children.
And, the people of
Illinois will not have to worry about the state taking more out
of their paychecks in the form of higher taxes.
"This budget is the culmination of four years of changing the
priorities of state government --changes that have resulted in
seismic shifts in the state budget and the state itself,"
Blagojevich said. "We're now a state that guarantees health care to
every child, a state that gives every child a chance to go to
preschool, a state that invests billions more in its schools, a
state that helps hundreds of thousands of senior citizens afford
their prescription drugs, and a state that helps hundreds of
thousands of working men and women purchase affordable health care
for their families. We've been able to make all of these changes and
do it without raising income or sales taxes by reordering state
government -- by running state government with 13,000 fewer
employees, by consolidating nearly 20 state agencies, by closing
unfair corporate tax loopholes and by aggressively using some of the
surplus balances in the special-purpose funds to pay for education
and health care. That's what this budget does. And it's what we've
been working for over the last four years. I want to thank Senate
President Jones and Speaker Madigan for all of the leadership
they've shown in helping make this happen."
"This budget reflects the priorities of the people of Illinois,"
Jones said. "It provides over $400 million in new funding for
education. It invests in early childhood learning for at-risk
children through universal preschool. It fully funds the MAP grants
and creates a grant program to assist middle-income families with
the growing burden of college costs. Health care for children,
working families, veterans and seniors are also vital concerns that
are addressed in this document."
"The FY '07 budget represents a very good collaboration with the
Illinois Senate and the governor," Madigan said. "It provides the
services to which Illinoisans are entitled. It addresses the unmet
needs of young children, college students and our veterans. It is a
balanced budget. It will get the job done."
The budget for fiscal 2007 includes significant new investments
in education, health care and public safety, as well as new
initiatives to streamline state regulations for businesses and clean
up the state's riverfronts.
Investing in children
Over four years, Blagojevich dedicated $3.8 billion of new
funding for Illinois schools. This represents more new money
invested in education than any other state in the Midwest, more than
43 other states in the nation and more than any other administration
in one term in Illinois history.
For the fourth consecutive year, Blagojevich has provided a major
increase in education funding -- $415 million more for education
from pre-kindergarten through high school. The budget also funds new
initiatives proposed by the governor, including universal preschool,
a pilot program to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third
grade and a grant program for families struggling to afford the high
costs of college.
"Preschool for All" makes Illinois the only state in the nation
to begin the process of providing access to high-quality preschool
for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old child in the state. The program,
which guarantees that in the end approximately 190,000 Illinois
children will have the chance to attend preschool, will reach
working families who are not able to afford the high cost of private
preschool. Funding for preschool programs will increase by $45
million this year, allowing 10,000 more children to get an early
start on their education. Students who attend preschool are 20
percent more likely to graduate from high school, 41 percent less
likely to need special education and 42 percent less likely to be
arrested for committing a violent crime. Studies also show that for
every dollar spent on early childhood education, society saves at
least $7 through decreased reliance on social services.
Participation in the program for parents is voluntary. The Preschool
for All legislation,
Senate Bill 1497, was sponsored by Sen.
Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester, and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie,
Helping middle-class families pay for college
Building on his ongoing efforts to make college more affordable
for students and families, Blagojevich provided the MAP program with
its largest increase in 10 years, a boost of 10 percent over fiscal
2006, and created a new program to help middle-income families as
well. With a new investment of $34.4 million, Illinois will create
MAP Plus to help middle-class families who don't qualify for the
traditional MAP program and struggle to afford rising college
tuition costs. MAP Plus will provide a grant of $500 per student for
sophomores, juniors and seniors who attend college in Illinois and
come from families with incomes less than $200,000.
An additional increase of $34.4 million will boost MAP grants
to their statutory maximum of up to $4,968, which will help more
students and their parents afford college. In total, 225,000
students will benefit from the creation of MAP Plus and the
additional funding for MAP.
Senate Bill 2225 was sponsored by Sen.
Edward Maloney, D-Chicago, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park.
Classroom size reduction
To help reduce class sizes, Blagojevich earmarked $10 million to
help schools pay for more teacher salaries and benefits.
2882, sponsored by Sen. Terry Link, D-Lake Bluff, and Rep. Michael
Smith, D-Canton, creates a pilot program that will distribute the
$10 million award as $50,000 grants equally among suburban,
downstate and Chicago Public Schools. More teachers mean smaller
classes. And, smaller classes mean more attention for each student
from the teacher and a better learning environment.
Increase for higher education
This year's budget includes a $48 million increase for higher
education. Universities will receive more than $26 million to help
attract and retain the best faculty and increase other school
programs, and community college grants will increase by almost $7
In fiscal 2007, after-school programs will receive a $12 million
increase to provide educational and extracurricular activities for
children after school hours. These programs keep children engaged in
productive activities at times when their parents may still be at
The fiscal 2007 budget includes a $20 million increase to pay for
a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for Department of Children and
Family Services foster parents and a similar adjustment for certain
Department of Human Services community providers. The increase will
improve compensation for those who care for children who have been
taken into the state's custody and other vulnerable populations.
Expanding access to health care
Since taking office three years ago, Blagojevich has made health
care available to more than 400,000 working people and their
children. And at the beginning of fiscal 2007, his All Kids health
insurance program will go into effect, giving every uninsured child
in Illinois access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage. The
governor also created the Illinois Cares Rx program so that no
senior would lose coverage after the federal government implemented
the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit program, which
actually provides Illinois seniors with less coverage than before.
While other states cut health care coverage back to balance their
budgets in the face of deficits, Blagojevich not only kept coverage
intact, but also expanded it.
In the last three years, Illinois has provided free breast and
cervical cancer screenings to 98,000 uninsured women; launched the
Healthy Women program, offering free health care to 167,000 women;
and awarded 77 women's health initiatives grants to fund local
education programs. As a result of these and more health care
investments, the Kaiser Foundation now ranks Illinois No. 1 in the
nation in providing insurance for working adults who don't have
access to affordable health care.
Blagojevich believes that health care is a fundamental right.
This year's budget furthers that goal by launching a new
comprehensive health care program for veterans, in addition to new
programs to streamline services for seniors, educate more nurses in
Illinois and an increase in funding for lifesaving breast and
cervical cancer screenings and treatment.
After serving their country in the military and putting their
lives on the line to defend our freedom, veterans should expect to
be treated with dignity when they return home. But too often they
are forced to get by without access to affordable health care. In
response, Blagojevich worked with state legislators to launch
Veterans Care, a new program that will provide affordable and
comprehensive health care to an estimated 9,000 veterans who are
most likely to fall through the cracks. The new program will help
uninsured Illinois veterans ages 19-64 who earn too much to qualify
for federal Department of Veterans Affairs assistance or other state
health programs. Just as the governor turned KidCare into All Kids,
the ultimate goal of Veterans Care is making sure every Illinois
veteran can afford health care.
Senate Bill 627 was sponsored by
Sen. Debbie DeFrancesco Halvorson, D-Chicago Heights, and Rep. Frank
Mautino, D-Spring Valley.
In an effort to better serve senior citizens, Blagojevich
included $7.8 million in the budget to launch a system for
comprehensive case management. The Illinois Department on Aging will
implement the first phase of this major initiative, and when fully
operational, the system will provide a single point of entry for
services, comprehensive assessment and coordination of clients'
needs and a broad array of other services. Additionally, through a
partnership with the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the
Department on Aging will have $2 million in new funding to use for
one-time home modifications that will help seniors stay in their
homes longer and for emergency rental payments, first-month's
deposits and utility bills for seniors transitioning back from
nursing homes into communities. This program will join with the
existing Community Care program.
In addition, the state will invest $10 million to increase the
asset limit for state assistance to $17,500 from the previous
$12,500 and provide additional emergency home response and respite
services for seniors living at home.
To address the severe nursing shortage facing Illinois, the
budget includes $1.3 million in nursing education scholarships that
will make pursuing a career in nursing education more attractive and
more affordable in the state of Illinois. In addition, the governor
allocated another $1.5 million for grants to nursing schools to
increase the number of graduating nurses, as well as $150,000 for 15
nurse educator fellowships that would supplement faculty salaries.
The fiscal 2007 budget also contains funding to create a Center for
Nursing that would develop a strategic plan for nursing manpower in
Illinois, maintain a database on nursing supply and demand, and
create nursing retention and recruitment initiatives. The governor
also worked with Sen. Carol Ronen, D-Chicago, and Rep. Lou Lang,
D-Skokie, to pass legislation that creates a student loan repayment
program for nurse educators.
Residential nursing care
The fiscal 2007 budget provides an additional $30 million in
state and federal funding to nursing homes to ensure that they are
held harmless as the state transitions to a new method for
determining nursing home Medicaid reimbursements.
Blagojevich has consistently made women's health a priority,
adding $26.6 million in funding for women's breast and cervical
health programs over the last four years. This year, Blagojevich
allocated $3.6 million in new funding, plus $2 million more in
federal funding, to increase eligibility for lifesaving breast and
cervical cancer screenings to women with incomes up to 250 percent
of the federal poverty level, which is approximately $25,000 for an
individual or $50,000 for a family of four. The expansion makes
breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment available for an
additional 7,000 women.
Children's mental health services
The new budget includes a $5 million increase for children's
mental health services. The increased funding will expand mental
health services to children and is based on recommendations made by
the Children's Mental Health Partnership.
Minority AIDS outreach
To expand state efforts to slow the disproportionately high rate
of HIV/AIDS among minorities, the new budget increases funding by $3
million for programs to combat the disease in the African-American
Strengthening public safety
Blagojevich included several new public safety initiatives and
funding commitments in the fiscal 2007 budget to better protect
people from the destructive cycle of drugs and violent crime. These
initiatives follow three years of strong public safety
including increasing the state's investment in DNA testing by $7.3
million from 2004 to 2006 and opening a $12 million state-of-the-art
State Emergency Operations Center. Overall, violent crimes committed
in Illinois are down 9 percent since 2002 and property crimes are
down 6 percent. Additionally, Illinois also is one of only seven
states that have achieved the highest level of bioterrorism
preparedness, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
New police officers
Blagojevich earmarked $3 million in fiscal 2007 to begin training
100 new Illinois State Police cadets. Two new cadet classes of 50
officers each will be trained in fiscal 2007 -- the first class
beginning this summer and the second beginning in June of 2007. In
addition, the new budget includes $8.4 million to purchase
approximately 300 new police cars.
Prairie State DNA Institute
In order to improve training and retention of forensic scientists
and enable the state to bring all DNA testing in-house, where it's
less expensive and more efficient, Blagojevich is allocating
$500,000 to create a program to offer scholarships at various
Illinois universities and $1.8 million to begin planning
construction on the Prairie State DNA Institute. While the
turnaround time for testing forensic samples was significantly
reduced to about 30 days from more than 10 months at the beginning
of 2003, delays last year at outside laboratories increased the
turnaround time for a forensic sample to 75 days. With the Prairie
State DNA Institute, the state will no longer be forced to outsource
cases, making the turnaround time to process samples faster and
reducing the error rate. The scholarship program will ensure a
steady stream of well-trained forensic scientists at the lab, who
would train for a period of time while they're still in college and
in return would be obligated to work in state labs for four years.
Blagojevich provided full funding in the fiscal 2007 budget for
the creation of a specialized 200-bed treatment unit at the 667-bed
Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center for inmates with meth
addictions. The new unit, which will receive $1.9 million from the
state and $4.78 million from the federal government, will be modeled
after the Sheridan National Model Drug Prison & Reentry program,
which has shown tremendous success, with a reincarceration rate that
is nearly 50 percent lower than other groups. In Illinois, the
number of meth labs dismantled grew from 24 in 1997 to 961 in 2004.
In the last three years, Illinois has provided law enforcement with
more tools to fight meth and made it easier for prosecutors to go
after meth-makers. Illinois laws regarding meth are among the
toughest in the nation.
In addition, a new investment of $1.6 million will allow the
state to implement pilot programs in 19 counties to improve security
around anhydrous ammonia tanks and reduce methamphetamine
Preparing prisoners for re-entry
New funding of $5.7 million will enable the Department of
Corrections to increase programming in support of parolee re-entry,
including interview skills and transitional employment. These
efforts to prepare inmates to return to their communities will build
on the governor's emphasis on reducing recidivism.
The fiscal 2007 budget also includes $6.7 million to open a
portion of Thomson Correctional Center to house minimum-security
inmates. The facility will open Sept. 1.
Promoting renewable energy and preserving the environment
In order to help reduce our reliance on foreign oil and promote
cleaner locally made fuels, in the coming year the state will
provide $20 million for investments in alternative fuel and
renewable fuel facilities -- biodiesel and ethanol -- and $5 million
for renewable fuels research at Southern Illinois University and
Western Illinois University.
Preserving natural habitat
In the coming fiscal year, the state will invest $29 million to
preserve open space: $15 million for the purchase of hunting lands;
$12 million for increased grants from the popular Open Space Lands
Acquisition and Development Program; and $2 million, as well as $4.5
million over three years, to begin to conduct an inventory of
Economic development and business growth
The General Assembly passed the governor's River Edge
Redevelopment Initiative, which will encourage developers to clean
up and develop environmentally contaminated riverfronts. Riverfronts
in downtown areas are ideal for commercial, retail and residential
use, but because these areas are often environmentally contaminated
as a result of former industrial use, developing these sites can
cost 20 percent to 40 percent more than uncontaminated sites. The
River Edge Initiative designates redevelopment zones that have
economic development potential in areas adjacent to rivers, but the
costs of redevelopment have made attracting investment extremely
difficult. Redevelopment zones will be eligible to receive tax
credits, exemptions and potentially new grant funding to support
cleanup, remediation and redevelopment efforts that will lead to
economic revitalization in these areas. This innovative new pilot
program will be launched in Aurora, Rockford and East St. Louis and
will provide developers and businesses with the critical tools to
revive and redevelop abandoned or contaminated properties.
Bill 17 was sponsored by Sen. James Clayborne, D-East St. Louis, and
Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora.
Expanded air and passenger rail service
In fiscal 2007, the state will boost its investment in Amtrak by
more than $12 million, allowing passenger rail service to start new
lines serving Springfield, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Carbondale and
Quincy. The governor's budget includes $1.6 million in grants to
promote regional commuter air service at Quincy Regional Airport,
Decatur Airport and Williamson County Regional Airport. This funding
is expected to attract more air carriers to those areas and expand
passenger air service.
To further improve the state's ability to create and retain jobs,
Blagojevich included $1.6 million to simplify and streamline the
licensing process for doctors, nurses, accountants, realtors,
roofers, appraisers, real estate brokers, barbers, beauticians and
almost 200 other professions. To do this, the Illinois Department of
Finance and Professional Regulation is installing a new system to
capture applicant data for all licenses quickly and accurately. The
department will also streamline the applications, reducing the time
it takes a professional to fill it out and review it. More than 1
million people rely on the state to grant or renew their
professional license, but the licensing process can take up to 19
weeks. With the new licensing reform in place, the time it takes to
complete the process will be reduced to only one to four weeks.
Minority job training
A $6.4 million investment in fiscal 2007 will be used to improve
minority participation in pre-apprentice and apprenticeship
programs. In addition, funding for local and regional work force
training and community development activities will be increased by
Film tax credit
Over the last two years, the film industry in Illinois has taken
off. To keep it going, Blagojevich will sign legislation enhancing
Illinois' film and television production tax credit.
Senate Bill 2030, proposed by the governor and sponsored by state
Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago,
increases the film tax credit, making productions in Illinois even
more attractive. In 2005, production revenue increased to an
estimated $94 million, which led to approximately 15,000 people
being hired by various film and television projects.
Making government smaller
To continue streamlining state government, Blagojevich created a
shared services initiative to combine state agency "back-office"
functions. The state currently has as many as nine payroll systems,
38 human resource systems, 104 fiscal systems, 95 call centers and
100 "1-800" numbers. Shared services will eliminate many of these
duplicate and redundant services. Also, with as many as 23,000
employees of the baby boomer age set to retire from state government
within the next 10 years, shared services will allow for a better
knowledge transfer so that younger workers can learn from more
experienced workers. This initiative will combine administrative
functions across state agencies to reduce operating costs and head
count. These functions include human resources, payroll and
benefits, accounting, procurement, and benefits. Agencies will be
grouped into clusters based on similar purposes -- for example,
public safety, social services and infrastructure. The shared
services initiative applies only to administrative functions, not
the actual substantive responsibility of each agency. When fully
implemented, this initiative could save taxpayers more than $115
million a year.
= = =
In summary, Blagojevich's fiscal 2007 budget makes significant
increase for K-12
Creation of MAP
Plus to help middle-class families pay for college
expansion of funding for the current MAP program
New grants for
classroom size reduction
increase for higher education
care to every uninsured child
Care to cover uninsured veterans
Reduces the nursing
Makes breast and
cervical cancer screenings available to more women
Expands tax credits
that help businesses create jobs
and regulations to save businesses time and money
Reduces red tape
and simplifies the licensing process for hundreds of professions
for new police officers and new police cars
Creates a new
facility designed to help incarcerated meth addicts recover
Prairie State DNA Institute
government and cuts costs through the shared services
initiative, which combines state agency "back-office" functions.
And for the
fourth consecutive budget, does all of this without asking the
hardworking people of Illinois for more of their money in income
taxes or sales taxes.