Today, Governor Rauner released his FY19 Budget Proposal in an address to the General Assembly. The Governor’s budget is an effort to close an estimated $9 billion budget hole while also assuming a lower income tax rate than the increase that was passed last year. The final budget that comes for a vote is likely to be proposed by Democratic leadership, but the Governor’s budget is a key inflection point for advocacy on our top priorities.
FY18 vs. FY19
The $36.1 billion FY18 budget, which was vetoed by the Governor though ultimately overridden, ended a multi-year budget impasse. The Governor’s administration, however, continues to prevent much of that appropriated money from actually being spent — with $21 million withheld to the Department of Agriculture alone.
The Governor’s FY19 budget is a $37.6 billion spending plan, including nearly $8 billion in capital funding. While this seems to be a slight increase in overall spending from FY18, it still includes significant cuts to important environmental and conservation programs. Moreover, the damage of the past several years has led to overall declines and staffing cuts for agencies we rely on. View the entire proposed budget here.
We are still in the process of analyzing the budget and its impacts, but from what we have seen there are some beneficial funding increases, as well as significant program cuts. Read more below:
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
While IDNR’s budget is slightly increased, it comes after years of devastating cuts over the last four years. For example, there were over 350,000 visitors to the Illinois State in FY15 and only 140,000 last year. The number of conservation police has been reduced and there has been a decline in reported visitors to state parks.
Preventing Lead in Drinking Water
We are pleased to see that Governor Rauner’s administration remains committed to preventing lead In drinking water by allocating $75 million programs that would address lead-based paint and lead-contaminated drinking water in residential homes and schools.
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
The Illinois EPA budget has also increased, although a majority of this increase is a result of funds allocated to the state from the Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement. The budget also gives IEPA the ability to hire additional staff, which is sorely needed.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts
The Department of Agriculture has seen stark cuts. For example, the $5.7 million allocated to Soil and Water Conservation Districts marks a 60% decrease from the amount of funds appropriated in the FY18 budget. These funds are critical to protecting farmland and reducing agricultural runoff into our waterways.
At first glance, important natural areas funds such as Open Space Land Acquisition and Development fund (OSLAD) and Natural Areas Acquisition Fund (NAAF) also have adequate funding. We are also happy to report that funding for the Renewable Energy Resources Fund has not been swept in the introduced budget.
While he has not introduced a capital spending plan in previous years, Governor Rauner did include $7.8 billion in new capital appropriations. 34% of this money will go to the Illinois Department of Transportation, with some going towards freight, mass transit, and other transportation grants. Notably, none of this funding will go to Illiana, Rt. 53, the Prairie Parkway or other ill-advised projects. The IEPA would also receive $1 billion to help with drinking water and stormwater infrastructure. Finally, there is $400 million for capital projects under the Department of Natural Resources.