Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Big news to share this week as Joliet finds out finally about receiving funding for the Chicago Street “City Square” plaza. Governor Pritzker releases more money for road funds impacting Joliet. Road projects are underway in all nine of the state’s IDOT districts, from a $54 million interchange reconstruction, bridge replacement and repair on Interstate 80 in Will County.
Additionally, on a much larger scale, the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act has been signed. More details are below.
Finally, last call for registration for our August luncheon is this Friday. Join us as we welcome and hear about the new Lion Electric facility in Joliet that will soon be rolling out a number of electric vehicles. The luncheon is next Wednesday, August 24th and registration can be handled here: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2022-member-lunch-august-24-lion-electric-6489
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*
Governor Pritzker Awards $106 Million in Grants through Rebuild Illinois Downtowns and Main Streets Capital Program – Including $3 Million to Joliet for Chicago Street “City Square” Plaza
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today announced $106 million in capital grants awarded to revitalize 50 commercial corridors and main streets throughout Illinois. In addition to the $106 million in state funding, projects offered an additional $109 million in matching grant funds, for a total investment of $215 million. The historic Rebuild Illinois (RBI) Downtowns and Main Streets Capital program represents the largest-ever RBI investment focused on community revitalization.
Launched through Rebuild Illinois State capital funds and further expanded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the grants support projects that will revitalize commercial hubs, beautify and modernize downtowns, address critical infrastructure needs, boost jobs and improve the quality of life for residents.
“I am thrilled to announce that we are doubling last year’s investment in our Downtowns and Main Streets Capital Grant program to include over 50 communities throughout Illinois to modernize downtowns, address long-awaited infrastructure needs, and boost local economies — in turn, bettering the quality of life for our state’s residents,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “With that upgraded infrastructure comes economic opportunity: more jobs, more business growth, and more money pouring into the communities that need it most — and that’s what Rebuild Illinois is all about.”
“Our administration knows that the road to recovery must include economic opportunities for our most vulnerable so we may all move forward together,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “The Rebuild Illinois Downtowns and Main Streets grants invest in communities that have for too long been disinvested, creating a pathway to make needed improvements that uplift residents and revitalize regions across the state.”
The state originally allocated $50 million in funding for this project in 2021. However, due to the high quality of applications and ongoing need, as well as the number of projects eligible for federal COVID relief funds, funding for the program increased by $56 million for a total of $106 million in investments benefiting 50 total communities. The increase in funding allowed the state to support an additional 29 community revitalization projects.
The RBI Downtowns and Main Streets Capital Program is designed to support local commercial corridors, with concentrations of businesses that experienced difficulties during the pandemic due to declining foot traffic, tourism, and business from downtown offices. The program drives investment in infrastructure and public amenities that continue to fuel economic activity as more Illinoisans patron their local town centers.
Grants awarded through the program are located in a commercial center or downtown area and include a variety of projects, such as the restoration of historic buildings, parking and street improvements, construction or improvement of outdoor venues or plazas for public use, sustainability upgrades, structural repairs and other projects benefitting the larger community. Grants range from $398,552 to $3 million in funding.
“Main streets and downtowns across Illinois serve as hubs for businesses and economic activity but are also places where families and friends gather to create enduring memories,” said DCEO Director Sylvia I. Garcia. “Governor Pritzker doubled the amount of funding for these grants in recognition of the critical role main streets play in creating jobs and improving quality of life across our great state. We’re proud to be investing $106 million in 50 projects that include development of business incubators, a co-op community grocery store, revitalization of historic buildings, and other essential infrastructure improvements that will play a vital role in economic development and revitalize commercial corridors for generations to come.”
Gov. Pritzker Announces $34.6 Billion Investment in Transportation Over Six Years
Governor JB Pritzker joined the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to announce a $34.6 billion program to improve roads, bridges, transit, rail, airports, and ports over the next six years. This funding represents a robust commitment to invest in people and communities backed by the historic Rebuild Illinois capital program.
“Since I signed our historic, bipartisan infrastructure program into law, Rebuild Illinois has undertaken a massive transformation of our state’s transportation systems,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “And today, I am proud to announce IDOT’s new Multi-Year Program for the next six years — with $20 billion going towards transportation investments including 2,500 miles of roads and nearly 10 million square feet of bridge deck and $10 billion going towards our state’s rail and transit systems, airports, and ports. At its very core, Rebuild Illinois and this MYP are an investment in our future — one that leads to economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.”
Of the major elements in the program released today, $6.36 billion will go toward highway reconstruction and preservation, $6.4 billion for bridge improvements, $2.03 billion for strategic expansion, $2.48 billion for system support such as engineering and land acquisition, and $1.55 billion for safety and system modernizations.
For the first time, road projects that add capacity were evaluated by a new Data-Driven Decisions Tool supported by Gov. Pritzker for selecting critical projects to ensure greater equity and transparency in transportation planning and programming. The FY2023-28 Proposed Highway Improvement Program aims to improve 2,562 miles of roads and nearly 10 million square feet of bridge deck. Of the $24.6 billion over the six years of the highway portion of program, $3.7 billion is identified for the current fiscal year. Included in the program are scores of projects in each of IDOT’s nine highway districts.
Thanks to last year’s passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, IDOT increased the investment in Illinois roads and bridges in the six-year program by $4 billion, further advancing Gov. Pritzker’s goals to create economic opportunity and jobs, promote quality of life, and improve safety on both state and local transportation systems throughout Illinois. The 2019 Rebuild Illinois capital plan’s framework and investments ideally positioned Illinois, the country’s transportation hub, to take advantage of the increased federal commitment and leverage additional funding which will help rebuild the state’s infrastructure more quickly and efficiently. The new federal transportation package is expected to contribute almost $16 billion across all modes of Illinois transportation, with the state eligible to compete for billions more in discretionary programs.
In addition to the six-year program for roads and bridges, Gov. Pritzker also released the FY2023-28 Proposed Multimodal Multi-Year Improvement Program further demonstrating the commitment through Rebuild Illinois to build connections across the modes of transportation and strengthen the state’s entire transportation network, resulting in even more economic activity and job creation. The program identifies a combined federal, state, and local investment of $6.5 billion for transit, $2.5 billion for passenger and freight rail, $817 million for aviation, and $150 million for ports.
“This blueprint for investing in Illinois transportation is perhaps the most consequential in the history of IDOT due to the increased federal commitment and Gov. Pritzker’s ongoing leadership through Rebuild Illinois,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “We look forward to working with our partners and stakeholders, delivering these important projects in communities up and down our state.”
Passed in 2019, Rebuild Illinois is investing a total $33.2 billion into the state’s transportation system over six years, creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Rebuild Illinois is not only the largest capital program in state history, but also the first plan that touches all modes of Illinois transportation: roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.
Entering year four of Rebuild Illinois, IDOT has made approximately $8.6 billion in improvements statewide on 4,422 miles of highway, 412 bridges, and 621 additional safety improvements.
Latest deposit brings Illinois’ Rainy Day Fund to record levels
Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced the latest deposit of $180 million into Illinois’ Rainy Day Fund, bringing the balance to a record level of $1.036 billion. Comptroller Mendoza has been a supporter for reviving the Rainy Day Fund, which serves as Illinois’ main savings account.
During the 2015 to 2017 budget impasse, the account was nearly wiped out. In April 2018, the account stood at just a mere $48,327.53. “We’re saving today to invest in tomorrow,” said Comptroller Mendoza. “This latest infusion proves that we are prioritizing paying down our debts, addressing the pension shortfall and not putting the problems of yesterday on the backs of future generations.”
Comptroller Mendoza’s action was supported by Governor Pritzker and approved by the Illinois General Assembly earlier this year. Illinois has earned six credit upgrades from credit rating agencies since June 2021, which are the first upgrades in over two decades.
“Building a robust emergency reserve account is responsible. And the credit rating agencies agree. They cited the state’s infusion into reserves as one reason for recent upgrades. Better credit ratings mean better rates on bonds, and that means more savings for taxpayers and better finances for the state overall,” Comptroller Mendoza said. “Further saving and paying down our debts when the state can afford it will better prepare us for the next fiscal downtown or crisis, such as a recession, that may come through no fault of our own.”
Updated Timeline for Special State Session?
At the IDOT news conference, Governor Pritzker was asked if he had an updated timeline for when a special session may be scheduled. When Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, Pritzker quickly announced he would call a special session. Then in July, it was announced that lawmakers would work “the remainder of the summer” on potential abortion-related legislation.
In response to the question, the governor wasn’t any clearer on the timeline. “As you know, the working groups are hard at work in the House of Representatives, working on various aspects of legislation, working with advocates, listening to them,” he said. “And so we’re cautiously optimistic that they’ll be able to come up with ideas for us to be able to bring forward in a special session, or in veto session, or some of it may even be in the new year.”
President Biden Signs Bill after House Approves Sweeping Climate, Tax, and Health Care Package
House Democrats passed their sweeping tax, climate and health care bill on Friday, sending the $740 billion legislation to President Biden’s desk and securing a significant victory for Democrats less than three months before the midterm elections. The President took action and signed the bill yesterday after noting on Twitter that he would take action to sign after the Senate and House votes.
The bill, titled the Inflation Reduction Act, passed the House in a 220-207, party-line vote. Four Republicans did not vote, while every Democrat voted in support. House Democrats erupted in cheers and applause when the bill officially passed. House passage came four days after the Senate approved the bill in a party-line vote, with Vice President Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) touted the bill on the House floor during debate on Friday, arguing that it “saves the planet while keeping more money in your pockets.”
“This bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, a package for the people, increases the leverage of the public interest over the special interests, and expands health and financial security now and for generations to come,” she added.
Passage through Congress marks the culmination of more than a year of negotiations among Senate Democrats on a spending package. The legislation will increase taxes on corporations, address climate change and bring down the prices of prescription drugs, all while lowering the deficit.
The package specifically includes $369 billion in energy security and climate investments and $64 billion to expand Affordable Care Act subsidies for two years. The bill offers incentives to businesses and consumers to make cleaner energy choices, including utilizing lower-carbon and carbon-free energy, and it creates new programs that will bolster investments in climate. On the health care end, the measure will allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for 10 high-cost drugs starting in 2026. By 2029, that number is expected to grow to 20 drugs. Additionally, the measure allows caps to be placed on some drug costs, but mainly for Medicare.
To pay for the legislation, Democrats have written in a 15 percent minimum tax on income that large corporations report to their shareholders. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, only about 150 firms would be affected. The bill also allocates $80 billion to increase enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service and ensure that wealthy individuals and corporations are not evading taxes. Additionally, a 1 percent excise tax on stock buybacks is included in the bill.
Passage of the bill caps off more than a year of negotiations among Senate Democrats, who had been working to come to a consensus on a spending package but failed on a number of occasions due to intraparty disagreements.
Inflation and Gas Prices Ease
Inflation eased slightly to 8.5% in July as energy and gasoline costs fell. The Labor Department’s latest report showed the consumer-price index’s rise was slower than June’s 9.1% gain, which was the fastest pace of inflation since November 1981. Core CPI, which excludes often volatile energy and food prices, eased to 0.3% last month, down sharply from June’s 0.7% gain.
Gas prices fell below $4 a gallon for the first time since March. The average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline in the U.S. was down 21% from June’s peak, as demand for oil softens around the globe. A July survey from AAA found that many people cut back on driving in response to the higher fuel prices beginning in March.
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry