La Grange: The deteriorating conditions of Illinois’ transportation systems, state owned facilities, education buildings, and veterans’ homes have resulted in residents across the state experiencing pothole filled roads, overcrowded schools, and poorly maintained university buildings and state facilities. The annual cost of needed repairs and investment currently stands at $21 billion per year, according to a new study released today by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI).
Read the study, “Passing the Buck: An Assessment of Capital Funding Needs in Illinois.”
Click here to read an Executive Summary.
Illinois’ state facilities occupy over 8,700 buildings and 100 million square feet of floor space, ranging from prisons and mental hospitals to universities and state parks. Despite the importance of state facilities – with students, patients, and staff depending on safe buildings and conditions – funding to provide proper maintenance has faltered.
Historically, transportation, education, and public service agencies throughout Illinois could depend on a capital bill approximately every 10 years. However, Illinois’ last capital bill, “Illinois Jobs Now!,” was passed in 2008.
“The state’s transportation systems and building facilities are deteriorating and will only continue to get worse,” said study author Mary Craighead. “The failure to adequately fund maintenance undermines the state’s economic success and increases both financial costs and safety risks to Illinois residents.”
In making the case for urgent capital funding, Craighead notes that deferred maintenance needs of state buildings and facilities total over $7 billion for fiscal year 2019. The Departments of Corrections and Health and Human Services alone account for over 50% of deferred maintenance needs, at about $2 billion each. Both of these departments operate facilities 24-hours a day, thus making improvements vital for the residents and staff.
“The Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy is a tragic example of the extreme hazards that deferred maintenance can have on Illinois residents,” Craighead added, explaining that the state-run facility has been battling Legionnaires’ disease since 2015 as a result of its 132-year-old plumbing. A total of 13 people have died and at least 61 residents and staff have been infected between three separate outbreaks over three years. The Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs has stated that the facility will likely never be rid of the disease as long as the original plumbing remains in place.
The report also notes that of the $21 billion per year, over $9 billion can be attributed to education facilities. Local school districts are using over 750 temporary classrooms due to needed building additions and repairs. Additionally, more than $4 billion per year is required just to address backlog needs for Illinois’ roads, bridges, and transit systems.
“Capital investment in Illinois’ infrastructure systems is crucial to promote a thriving and economically successful state,” Craighead concluded. “Illinois’ transportation, education, and public facilities are too important to allow continued neglect. It is time for lawmakers to seriously discuss viable funding options and sustainable, adequate capital funding to address these severe shortfalls.”
The Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) is a nonprofit organization which uses advanced statistics, reliable surveying techniques and the latest forecasting models to develop timely and dynamic analysis of policy issues affecting the economies of the Midwest.
Click here to read the full report.