In addition to the Illinois General Assembly passing a year-long operating budget, it is important to remember the significance of also passing a capital budget. The future of many communities in central Illinois hangs in the balance of funding a plan for school and road construction.
A capital budget would provide much-needed funding to local projects that are poised to generate significant economic opportunities from East Peoria to Lewistown in my district. Because a capital spending plan has not been passed since the current governor took office, school districts such as East Peoria Elementary are waiting to begin new construction projects, as they have been for many years. Without this much-needed construction, schools are dealing with crowded classrooms and inadequate facilities, which hinder our children’s education.
Higher education is not immune to this funding dilemma either. Illinois State University and Western Illinois University are both awaiting state funds for new construction, as are our local community colleges like Illinois Central College and Spoon River College. This construction is needed to expand and improve our higher education infrastructure and programs. Due to budget constraints at the state level, the Illinois Community College Board has not funded any construction projects since 2003, exacerbating existing hardships for local educational facilities, as well as creating new ones.
School expansion would provide a more complete array of educational opportunities to the region. The absence of these opportunities hurts the surrounding communities by depriving them of the education needed to compete in an evolving marketplace and the much-needed economic development that would be created through these capital projects.
Infrastructure projects such as roads and water service are essential to a successful economic development plan because they create jobs for local residents, facilitate commerce, help attract new businesses and ensure that our communities stay safe. Unfortunately, many smaller local governments do not have room in their budgets to handle upgrades or additions to infrastructure on their own and must rely on the state for monetary assistance.
Technology Boulevard in East Peoria is a perfect example of this. Once built, the road would help infuse much-needed development on the land previously owned and operated by Caterpillar. Pekin is looking at its own capital project with the expansion of Veterans Drive. These roads are essential for encouraging investment in the region because businesses will head to the areas that have proper facilities and infrastructure. The western part of my district needs state assistance to construct Route 336 from Macomb to Peoria and expand Routes 9 and 24 from Kingston Mines to Banner. This region is one of the most economically underserved regions in central Illinois, and these projects would bring in new business and help revitalize an economy still struggling to recover from the recession of the 1980s.
In light of recent events in Minnesota, it would be unwise for any leader to try to suggest that infrastructure funding isn’t important and necessary for the safety and improvement of communities across the state and right here in central Illinois. After several years, the state of Illinois needs a capital budget now more than ever, and I remain hopeful that my fellow legislators and the governor will support the funding of a capital budget before this marathon session ends. IBI