In a move that reportedly transcended politics, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed into law a bipartisan plan that will sink $45 billion into state construction projects and construction-related programs.
The Rebuild Illinois plan, which will be paid for primarily by increases in gas and cigarette taxes, as well as the revenue generated by a significant expansion of state gambling laws, is made up of four pieces of legislation, the first of which (House Bill 62) identifies the projects that will receive funding. Those include:
- $33.2 billion of transportation projects including new roads and bridges, surface transportation rehabilitation, mass transit, passenger rail and ports
- $3.5 billion for education projects, which includes deferred maintenance and new projects at both public and private universities, as well as maintenance and other projects at the pre-K-12 level
- $4.4 billion to renovate or build new state facilities
- $1 billion for environmental and conservation projects
- $420 million for an expansion of broadband
- $465 million toward healthcare and human services projects
- $1.8 billion for projects and programs that spur economic development like museums and libraries, as well as apprenticeships and minority-owned business initiatives
New taxes that went into effect today will help pay for the massive program over the next six years. One raises the motor fuel tax from 19 cents to 38 cents, while another provision allows for a five-cent increase in the special fuels tax on diesel fuel, liquefied natural gas and propane to 7.5 cents.
Municipalities within Cook County are now also permitted to raise their gas taxes by three cents per gallon, and two new counties are able to charge their own motor fuel tax. Title and registration fees also saw healthy increases beginning today.
The Rebuild Illinois legislation also increased state bonding authority for infrastructure projects by $22.6 billion to $60.8 billion, giving the state a boost to one of its most significant funding mechanisms.
Pritzker and other supporters of the new capital plan are also betting that an expansion of legalized gambling in Illinois will pay off in hundreds of millions of dollars for new construction projects, as well as generate thousands of new jobs. Owners of casinos, racetracks and sports venues that hold 17,000 or more people will also now be able to offer sports betting, which is expected to raise more than $100 million annually.
The legislation also authorized licenses for six new land-based casinos — as opposed to riverboat venues — which are expected to create thousands of construction jobs in addition to contributing to the Rebuild Illinois initiative.
Other boosts to the construction industry via the new gambling law are tax breaks for data center owners that make an investment of $250 million or more in Illinois, as well as the establishment of the Illinois Works Jobs Program Act.
Provisions of the Act include the creation of a pre-apprenticeship program to increase the number of people coming into the state's construction industry; an apprenticeship program that lawmakers hope will provide 10% of the labor on public works projects; and a bid-credit program intended to encourage contractors to hire a more diverse group of employees.