MPC Releases 2003 Policy Agenda - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC Releases 2003 Policy Agenda

Issues Challenge to State Leadership on Education, Transportation, Housing & Sensible Growth

With the glow of their swearing in and inauguration fading, the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Rod Blagojevich now face the hefty challenges of eliminating the state's budget deficit while still meeting the pressing needs of their constituents. Bolstering its work with the new governor's transition team and building on expertise of its partners around the region, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has developed a menu of legislative and administrative policies that make innovative use of scarce resources.

Among MPC's top priorities are reforming the way education is funded, reducing traffic congestion and promoting housing development and sensible growth in ways that benefit businesses and residents alike. After the spring legislative session adjourns, MPC will use its 2003 Policy Agenda to evaluate the 93rd Illinois General Assembly.

"We will be keeping a close eye on Springfield this year," explained MarySue Barrett, MPC president. "Of course, the budget crisis is everyone's top priority. But, with new leadership in place, this is the time to begin streamlining the way business gets done, and tackling top priorities at the state level.

Education

More than 400,000 Illinois schoolchildren in high poverty schools are failing to meet state learning standards, and with new federal law mandating that 100 percent of schoolchildren meet state standards by 2014, education quality and funding reforms take on new urgency. MPC and the Network 21: Quality Schools for Stronger Communities coalition have identified a number of promising initiatives that can improve educational outcomes for students. Chief among them are recommendations to replace, over the next three years, at least 25 percent of local property taxes with more equitable and efficient forms of revenue, and to increase the per-pupil funding foundation level from $4,560 to $5,500.

Transportation

By September, Congress is expected to enact a surface transportation bill to replace TEA-21 (the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century). Although TEA-21 increased funds for highways 40 percent nationwide, Illinois' increase was only 29 percent, due to a formula that did not make adequate awards to states with greater need.  As the nation's freight hub, the second largest transit provider in the nation and the third most congested region overall, Illinois needs more.  In order to make a strong case in Washington, D.C., northeastern Illinois' leaders must reach consensus on what those needs are.  MPC recommends that Gov. Blagojevich keep his campaign promise to exercise real leadership in coordinating metropolitan Chicago's transportation priorities. 

Housing

According to the U.S. Census, in Illinois, more than half a million homeowners and half a million renters are paying more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing. That means a worker earning minimum wage ($5.15 per hour) must work 120 hours per week in order to afford a market-rate, two-bedroom apartment. In order to begin addressing the state's housing crisis, MPC recommends the administration elevate housing as a state priority and link it to other growth and development programs.

Sensible Growth

Because all of the issues outlined above are inextricably linked, MPC recommends the creation of a senior advisor on sensible growth. This cabinet-level position would report directly to the governor and be responsible for coordinating across various departments all the programs dealing with housing, transportation, land use and growth management.

"To develop these recommendations, we worked with a wide range of partners — representing government, the civic community, businesses and even grassroots activists," said Peter Skosey, VP of external relations for MPC. "We intend to use our expertise and leadership of regional coalitions to move these issues forward."

MPC's 2003 Policy Agenda outlines recommendations for federal and local action as well. These include federal dollars for affordable housing and local planning initiatives, modernizing the City of Chicago Zoning Code and reforming Cook County's property tax structure.

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For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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