2019 Policy Priorities - Metropolitan Planning Council

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2019 Policy Priorities

Our recommendations for state, local and institutional policy change

State of Illinois

Legislative Policy Recommendations

Create sustainable transportation Revenues, especially for transit

Illinois’ transportation infrastructure is failing. In 2018, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state a D for the quality of our roads, and the Regional Transportation Authority estimates that nearly a third of the Chicago region’s public transit infrastructure is beyond its useful life. MPC has calculated that we need to raise $43 billion over 10 years to get back to a state of good repair. We need a sustainable annual transportation revenue source that can close this gap.

MPC recommends raising sustainable transportation funding, via transportation user fees such as raising the motor fuel tax and indexing it to inflation and increasing vehicle registration fees. This is an important change from previous “capital bills” that bonded against largely non-transportation revenue sources for infrequent infusions of capital.

MPC recommends that the state transition to long-term funding solutions such as a mileage-based user fee.

MPC recommends that at least 30 percent of new transportation revenue be designated for transit, which is the most equitable, efficient and environmentally friendly transportation option available.

MPC recommends that new revenues be accompanied by reforms to develop transparent project selection processes. Such methods should using a range of criteria to prioritize investments, such as environmental performance, equity, access, and economic development.

MPC held a roundtable discussion on mileage-based user fees on February 22, 2019. Additionally, MPC may oppose HR77, which prohibits the state from authorizing mileage-based-user fees.

Require water utilities to develop lead service line inventories and lead service line replacement programs

There is no safe level of lead exposure. Exposure can cause behavior problems and learning disabilities in young children and also affects the health of adults. In addition to paint and soil, lead can also be found in tap water, either from the decay of old lead-based pipes, fixtures or leaded solder that connects drinking water pipes. Given the significant human health risks of lead exposure, we need to take action now—it is time to get the lead out of our drinking water infrastructure.

MPC recommends that the State of Illinois require all water utilities to establish an inventory of lead service line locations and create a lead service line replacement plan.

MPC, in partnership with the Illinois Environmental Council and the Water Utility Council, drafted a bill to this effect. Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) introduced this bill as SB1532, which MPC is closely monitoring and will support.

Require the State of Illinois to conduct a study of water rate-setting in the Lake Michigan service area, to understand what is driving inequitable outcomes

Within the hundreds of permitted municipal and other users of Lake Michigan water, there is substantial variation in the rates being charged. These rates are generally on the rise (but at very different paces), and many low-income communities appear to have rates beyond what their residents and businesses can reasonably pay. Unfortunately, it is unclear that water rate hikes are leading to demonstrably better water management.

While these facts and trends are increasingly well known, their causes remain elusive. This lack of understanding is particularly vexing given the legislative and infrastructure solutions already proposed to address water rate affordability. Without a clear understanding of what problem they are meant to solve, it is likely that these proposals will be at best partial solutions.

MPC recommends advancing SB1724 and HB2759, which call for a study of water rates throughout Illinois.

This bill proposes a comprehensive study of how water rates are set, the causes of rate increases, affordability burdens for low-income communities, and potential opportunities to advance future water rate setting policy.

MPC worked with Illinois Environmental Council to draft SB1724 and HB2759, which wereintroduced by Senator Napoleon Harris III (D-Harvey) and Representative La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago) respectively. MPC is closely monitoring both bills and will support them as they advance through their respecive legistlative bodies.

Expand planning assistance to water utilities

Not all communities have the resources to appropriately address current and burgeoning drinking water infrastructure challenges. Likewise, most funding source applications require that engineering studies and capital improvement planning be complete before applying. Yet many low-income and low-capacity communities do not have the resources to even complete the studies and plans, let alone apply for even a low-interest loan to complete much needed capital infrastructure projects.

MPC has identified one especially promising route for building utility capacity: regional partnerships. By cooperating regionally, water utilities can potentially reduce administrative overhead and take advantage of economies of scale. Yet the utilities that might most benefit from these partnerships often lack the money and/or capacity to research regionalization’s benefits. Illinois’ drinking water utilities require technical assistance to both study and/or then implement the system partnerships that could save them money and help them deliver higher-quality, lower-cost services to their rate-payers.

MPC recommends that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enact a program strategy that provides more resources to small and/or low-income municipalities through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, including its federally allowable set asides, in order for those communities to eventually apply for capital infrastructure projects through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

MPC recommends that Illinois EPA take full advantage of the 15 percent set-aside, which would expand opportunities to fund technical assistance to local water systems.

MPC recommends that the State of Illinois and Illinois EPA encourage local water systems to apply for technical assistance funding to study and implement regionalization.

Representative Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) introduced HB2650 to expand usage of the State Revolving Fund to build water systems' technical capacity. MPC is coordinating with Illinois EPA and Representative Rita to develop bill language that best accomplishes these priorities. MPC will support HB2650 in its amended form.

Include housing in the state capital bill

Illinois has not had a capital bill since 2009, at which time $130 million was set aside for housing. A significantly greater investment in affordable housing in Illinois’ next capital budget would have even more economic impact and address policy priorities such as ending homelessness, continuing to reduce state reliance on expensive institutional care, creating housing in areas of opportunity, preserving affordable housing in gentrifying communities, rebuilding neighborhoods and closing the racial wealth gap.

MPC recommends including $1 billion in the state’s capital bill for the construction and rehab of affordable housing.

Re-establish and fund the Local Government Division within DCEO (MPC/Transform Illinois Priority)

Communities across Illinois need smart, data-driven, holistic processes to guide their planning decisions. Yet such large-scale, long-range planning requires technical capacity in operations and data management that some of Illinois’ cash-strapped local governments cannot afford. Local governments need funding to engage in meaningful, long-range planning activities.

 MPC recommends that Illinois establish a Local Government Division at the state level, through which technical assistance grants are made.

 MPC recommends that those grants include eligibility for the implementation of financial, human resource, operations and/or data management systems in order to support planning efforts.

MPC, alongside our partners at Transform Illinois, is currently working with on a bill to establish the Local Government Division.

Create a new property tax incentive for affordable housing

Property taxes are often a large and unpredictable expense, which can make it challenging for owners of multifamily rental properties to keep their buildings affordable and in good condition. Housing Action Illinois, Enterprise Community Partners, and the Preservation Compact created HB2168 to create a new property tax incentive that encourages the preservation of affordable units in higher cost markets, and investment in lower cost markets.

 MPC supports HB2168

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MPC 2019 Policy Priorities

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