5/26/20 UPDATE: On Friday, we provided an update on the state budget as it was proposed late last week–a maintenance budget that included several concerning cuts and a lack of funding for some environmental priorities.
Over the weekend, the legislature continued to meet and, through continued advocacy, we have several positive updates to report. The final budget and budget implementation plan were approved late Saturday, and a measure that could have limited transparency in government was shot down.
- The proposal for up to 15% cuts across the board for various line items was removed. IEC will continue to advocate for the full expending of the appropriations that were passed for vital environmental programs and agencies.
- The final budget did include $500,000 in funding for the Healthy Local Food Incentives Program, which supports the use of SNAP dollars at farmers markets.
- An earlier version of the budget diverted funds from the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development fund to general state funds. This diversion was reversed and these funds will be available to parks and forest preserves for open space.
- A measure to address government meetings and functioning during this crisis was proposed late last week. It included some dangerous changes to the Freedom of Information Access (FOIA) statute which is an important tool for keeping government transparent, especially when special interest polluters work behind closed doors. Fortunately, advocates, Governor Pritzker and legislative champions opposed these changes and they were not adopted.
5/22/20 UPDATE: As we write this update, the General Assembly is debating a budget for the 2021 fiscal year (FY21).
Though it is yet to be finalized, FY21 budget scenarios are bleak. Illinois is facing significant fiscal challenges in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the amount of money actually spent may be much less than what is appropriated.
While a maintenance budget has been proposed, the General Assembly has given the Governor and his agencies the discretionary authority to set aside up to 15% of any line item or lump sum of the budget. There is a large funding sweep of the Open Space and Land Acquisition Development proposed that would completely redirect this funding for FY21 to General Revenue Funds and we also expect borrowing of other environmental funds during the FY21 budget cycle.
Throughout the next few months as this money is expended, IEC will continue to advocate for the full funding of environmental programs and against any sweeps or cuts.
Below you can find more specific information on appropriations in the proposed budget:
Clean Energy and Clean Air
- $50 million is appropriated from the Renewable Energy Resources Fund for the Illinois Solar for All program.
- $70 million is re-appropriated from the capital budget for electrification infrastructure.
- $70 million is re-appropriated from the capital budget for renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades at state facilities.
- $88 million is appropriated and re-appropriated VW settlement funding. IEC will advocate that transportation electrification opportunities are prioritized.
- New, increased funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, as a result of federal appropriations. The budget bills also expand the eligibility for this program, allowing for more households in need to access support.
- So far, rollover funding for important solar programs has not received a needed extension, despite our advocacy efforts.
Sustainable Agriculture and Local Food
- Soil and Water Conservation Districts are set to receive $7.5 million, which is similar to FY20.
- Cover crop insurance discount program is funded at $300,000, equal to last year’s appropriation, but less than the Governor’s proposed budget.
Open Space and Wildlife Preservation
- The Department of Natural Resources budget is equal to FY20.
- OSLAD, NAAF, and OLT are all appropriated towards open space programs, but OSLAD funds collected for the year have been redirected towards the General Revenue Funds.
- $2.5 million is re-appropriated to initiate pre-construction engineering and design of the Brandon Road Project to combat the continued threat of Asian carp and aquatic invasive species.
- $57 million is re-appropriated from the capital budget for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which helps protect environmentally sensitive areas.
- 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 shockingly low, with headcounts of up to 900 only five years ago and over 1,200 15 years ago. Despite the overall budget picture, we encourage the IEPA to fully hire within the constraints of its budget.
- $3 million is reappropriated to the Alternate Fuels rebate program for grants associated with clean transportation.
- IEPA recycling efforts received level funding from the Solid Waste Management Fund.
- $50 million is reappropriated for coal ash pollution prevention and clean-up, a major victory we worked to secure last year.