Capital Working Group
Illinois General Assembly Senate
May 15, 2020
Dear Senate Capital Working Group,
Thank you for your continued work to respond to the existing public health crisis while planning for the State’s future capital needs. Your work under these exceptional circumstances is deeply valued by the residents of Illinois.
The Metropolitan Planning Council, an 85 year-old research and policy nonprofit working to make a better Illinois and Chicago region, asks that you consider the following short-term and long-term capital issues in your discussions. As you will see, these measures promote:
- Safe, quality housing for low income residents, especially those in communities of color;
- Water access and infrastructure upgrades to protect the health of Illinois residents;
- Safe, equitable transportation options, including transit, biking, and walking; and
- Community development that closes the racial wealth and health gaps.
Although the need for these solutions is especially pressing in light of the current pandemic, they all have deep roots in longstanding capital challenges, challenges which are experienced very differently across racial and economic lines. Tackling these longstanding issues will move Illinois toward greater prosperity, racial equity, and environmental sustainability.
As important as it is to invest in these particular issues, that investment must be accompanied by reforms in how we fund capital infrastructure in the State. Illinois needs:
- Targeted outreach and technical support for low-income communities. Low-income communities are often the least able to access existing state programs and funding opportunities, such as the State Revolving Fund programs. These communities often need technical assistance to support application and planning.
- In the immediate term, prioritization of existing infrastructure. Fast-tracking maintenance for existing state infrastructure – IHDA housing, State Parks, etc. – and local projects that have received past state support, may be the most expedient way to get people working. It may also prove the most equitable, as well: a call for shovel-ready projects will favor more affluent communities with projects ready to go; maintenance and upgrades, on the other hand allows for a more selective approach that distributes the funds where employment opportunities are most needed.
- Transparent, equitable project selection criteria. Developing and implementing transparent, accountable project selection criteria can make sure the right projects are getting funded, ensuring the biggest bang for our investment buck.
- Regional coordination. Illinois has some 8,000 units of local government, the overwhelming majority of which spend without coordination with other, similar units of government in surrounding areas. Coordination – for purchasing, service sharing, and capital improvement optimization – would allow capital dollars to stretch further.
- Enhanced capital improvement planning (see attached memo). A standard practice for most states is development of a multi-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Forty-two states have a multiyear CIP, and Illinois is not one of them. It is time to develop a multiyear spending plan with performance and equity-based project selection criteria.
Some of the issues we raise below have existing state legislation or budget asks attached. Others are issues that we want to raise for future legislation. Nevertheless, these are all important capital issues that we wanted to bring to your attention. We would be happy to speak with you in more detail about measures the legislature can take to support these reforms.
Thank you for your attention. We hope to speak with you soon.
For a PDF of MPC's full statement