An email from Jen Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council:
Today, the General Assembly took steps to move forward a comprehensive budget for Fiscal Year 2019. As we are still dealing with the damage caused to environmental programs and our natural areas by the record-setting budget impasse, it’s vital that a sound budget is in place for our work growing clean jobs, conserving open spaces, and protecting our natural resources.
The Senate has introduced amendment 2 to HB109 that lays out a $38.5 billion spending plan for our state. HB3342 is likely be amended to be the budget implementation plan that authorizes this spending.
- $50 million is appropriated from the Renewable Energy Resources Fund to support the Illinois Solar for All program. This will protect this funding from future sweeps. The Illinois Power Agency is also fully funded.
- The Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund, which was formerly used for solar rebates, has been partially appropriated for job training at community colleges through the Illinois Green Economy Network and partially appropriated to lead testing.
- The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps economically disadvantaged communities, is fully funded at $580 million.
- $20 million is appropriated from the VW settlement trust.
Local Food and Sustainable Agriculture
- $500,000 in funding for Healthy Local Food Incentives Program, which will support the use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets.
- Soil and Water Conservation programs were funded at $7.5 million. This is $6 million less than in the budget for FY18, but $2.5 million more than the SWCD programs actually were paid out from the FY18 budget. While this is a workable level for FY19, we will continue to advocate to bring back the grant programs offered by Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
- Nearly $60 million of Open Space Land Acquisition Development funds were appropriated for the building of infrastructure at parks.
- Budget includes full appropriation of federal fish and wildlife pass through funding.
- Important funding is increased for the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund, to support stewardship.
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
- The Solid Waste Management Fund is appropriated at $13.1 million, which is equal to its FY18 funding. This includes $750,000 for programs related to electronics recycling. This is far lower than the combined funds available to DCEO and IEPA programs in previous years.
Public Health – Lead abatement
- $15 million to the Comprehensive Lead Education, Reduction, and Window Replacement Act (CLEAR-WIN) which will fund the removal of lead paint and plumbing hazards in homes of low-income children.
- Additionally there is $50 million to the School Construction Fund to help schools pay for lead abatement projects.
The Senate has also released a budget implementation bill, which lays out how the appropriations will be implemented, and can often include fund sweeps or inter-agency borrowing. While the Illinois General Assembly has relied on fund sweeps to environmental programs in past sessions, there are no damaging sweeps or forgiveness of what has been borrowed, but the length of time that funds can be borrowed has been extended.
While the Senate is expected to vote tonight, the House is expected to vote tomorrow, the final day of the Spring legislative session. It has been reported that the Governor is likely to sign the budget when it reaches his desk.