The General Assembly has passed a Fiscal Year 2020 budget, as well as a $40 billion capital budget.
As always, we’re here to break it all down and fill you in on the most important budget items impacting the environment.
Overall, this is an exciting opportunity for environmental projects and clean jobs throughout Illinois. Highlights of the budget and capital plan include:
- New capital funding for solar, wind and energy efficiency, as well as low-income electric vehicle infrastructure.
- Full appropriation for the Illinois Solar for All program in 2019 and 2020.
- New funding for land acquisition and stewardship.
- A new program to incentivize cover crops, funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and funding for the conservation reserve enhancement program.
- Funding for Brandon Road and nearly a third of a billion dollars in loans and grants for various water infrastructure loan projects.
Unfortunately, fees were increased for electric vehicles starting January 1, 2020. While we were able to defeat a punitive $1,000 fee with the help of our supporters contacting their legislators, the fees imposed will include the removal of the discount for electric vehicle license plates, meaning registration will go from $17.50 a year to $148, the normal vehicle price. On top of that, electric vehicles will also pay a $100 annual fee. This fee is about the average electric vehicle fee in the country. While it isn’t the highest fee in the country, Illinois also does not supplement electric vehicle ownership with any rebates like many states do. This only applies to electric vehicles and not hybrid electric vehicles.
In addition, we are disappointed by the lack of grant programs to address drinking water infrastructure issues, including nutrient pollution and lead service line removal. These serious water issues should be addressed by more than just loan funding. We are also disappointed to see the level of open space land acquisition much lower than historical funding.
Budget highlights include:
- Approximately 22.5% share for mass transit.
- 20% of the revenue from the gas tax increase will go to transit annually.
- $50 million annually for bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
- $300,000 for crop insurance discount for cover crops is included in the budget. This is an incredibly exciting win for our partners in conservation.
- $7.5 million for soil and water conservation districts is included in the budget, including $3 million for cost share projects to support on the ground nutrient reduction and soil erosion prevention work. Unfortunately, health insurance benefits were not returned to SWCDs at a cost of $1.4 million.
- There is a $37 million re-appropriation for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and $20 million of new funding in the capital plan.
- Overall level funding for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
- The budget includes full spending for operation of the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund, including possible funding for stewardship by land trusts. The capital plan included $10 million for the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund.
- The budget includes a $20 million re-appropriation of Open Lands Trust and the capital budget includes $25 million of new appropriation for land acquisition.
- Funding for parks through Open Space Land Acquisition Development includes operations funding as well as $29 million new and $17 million re-appropriation for OSLAD. The capital plan includes $23 million for OSLAD. There is an additional $50 million for parks in the capital plan.
- Partners for Conservation is funded at $1,971,900, which supports staff involved in natural land and conservation cropping programs through IDNR.
- Wildlife Preservation Fund is in the budget at $500,000 for consultation. This program is funded by both federal sources and the tax checkoff box. We hope for previous habitat grants from this program to return.
- $50 million for the Renewable Energy Resources Fund for the Illinois Solar for All program, which prioritizes new solar development and job training in low-income communities.
- Sufficient appropriation to Illinois Power Agency, which helps implement FEJA.
- $2 million to Illinois Green Economy Network training programs.
- $2 million in the energy efficiency trust fund to environmental justice programs at the IEPA Department of Energy.
- $70 million in the capital plan for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. This is sufficient funding for 5% of state building energy usage.
- $70 million is in the capital plan for electric vehicle infrastructure in low income communities.
- $20 million is re-appropriated and $60 million is appropriated from the Volkswagen settlement fund in the budget.
- $15 million re-appropriation to CLEAR-WIN, the Comprehensive Lead Reduction and Window Replacement Program.
- $50 million re-appropriation for lead service line replacement at schools.
- The budget and capital plan do not include any new funding to address lead removal, including lead service lines.
- $10 million for Water Revolving Fund in the budget and $200 million for the Water Revolving Fund in the capital plan.
- $2 million for the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center.
- $22 million for flood mitigation and buy-outs in the budget, and $10 million for flood mitigation in the capital plan.
- $2.5 million for Brandon Road planning is in the capital plan.
- $20 million for dam removal in the capital plan.
- $25 million for green infrastructure grants is in the capital plan.
- $23 million for U.S. Army Corp of Engineers on ecosystem restoration projects in the capital plan.