Reports & Analysis

Analysis: Governor’s 2021 Budget Address

Jen Walling

Executive Director
Illinois Environmental Council

Gov. Pritzker released his FY21 Budget Proposal in an address to the General Assembly. While the governor’s address was primarily focused on education and human services, he emphasized the need to prioritize clean water and clean air as essential functions of state government. We certainly agree that those are important priorities that must be reflected in the state budget.

Over the last few decades, we have seen budget cuts to agencies and environmental programs that resulted in significant staffing reductions and fewer enforcement actions. Even when funds were appropriated, in some cases they were never released to the programs or agencies for which they were earmarked. 

Our initial review of the FY21 budget is overall positive, but this is certainly a maintenance budget for environment and conservation. Programs received level or increased funding and federal/capital funding was sufficiently appropriated. The real litmus test is the hiring of staff by agencies, the full use of funding, and the ability of each agency to take on new programs that address current issues. We’ll continue to review the overall budget more in depth as it proceeds towards passage.

The governor’s budget highlighted a few environmental and conservation items, including:

  • $50 million for enactment of the coal ash pollution prevention act.
  • $651.5 million in new loans for municipal water programs and another $400 million reappropriation of capital funding for transportation electrification as well as drinking and storm water. $221 million for capital projects related to conservation.
  • Full appropriation of the VW settlement funding.
  • Full funding of operations of all state parks and campgrounds.
  • Some appropriations for the Brandon Road project to combat Asian carp in Lake Michigan.

While the governor’s budget outlines spending for FY2021, we also hope that the governor’s office will prioritize funding the following:

  • Replacement of lead service lines through passage of legislation requiring an inventory and full replacement of lead service lines.
  • Efforts to drastically reduce nutrient pollution from agriculture and wastewater treatment.
  • Land conservation stewardship and acquisition funding.

Below you can find more specific information on appropriations in the proposed budget.

Clean Energy

Gov. Pritzker underlined the need to reach 100% renewable energy in Illinois, satisfy his commitment to the US Climate Alliance and fight climate change in his address. His proposed budget reflects that commitment:

  • $50 million is appropriated from the Renewable Energy Resources Fund for the Illinois Solar for All program.
  • $4 million for the Office of Energy to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy programming targeted from the Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund.
  • $89 million in appropriated and re-appropriated VW settlement funding; IEC will advocate that transportation electrification opportunities are priorities.

Sustainable Agriculture and Local Food

  • Soil and Water Conservation Districts is at $8.2 million, which is similar to FY20. This amount will fully fund staffing, but not programs at SWCDs.
  • The cover crop insurance discount program was doubled to $600k.

Natural Resources

  • The Department of Natural Resources budget is equal to FY20.
  • OSLAD, NAAF, and OLT are all appropriated towards open space programs
  • DNR headcount remains level.
  • $2.5 M to initiate pre-construction engineering and design of the Brandon Road Project to combat the continued threat of Asian carp and aquatic invasive species.

Environmental Protection

  • IEPA is once again slated to have 768 employees in its headcount for FY2021, up from 677 estimated in FY20 and 617 in FY19. This number is still appalling, with headcounts of up to 900 only five years ago and over 1,200 15 years ago. 
  • $5 million is appropriated from the Alternate Fuels rebate program for a grant program.
  • $660 million in new appropriation authority for drinking, storm and wastewater low interest loans to local governments.
  • The IEPA recycling office received increased funding from Solid Waste Management Funding.
  • $50 million for coal ash pollution prevention and clean-up.

The budget introduced is just the first step in this process. IEC and our affiliates will continue to advocate for our priorities and monitor the budgetary progress over the next few months, while also focusing on our community’s priorities for a capital infrastructure budget.

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