At a press conference Wednesday, lawmakers and organization leaders unveiled Build Up Illinois, a coalition advocating for building projects, also known as “vertical construction”, as part of a comprehensive capital plan.
The coalition is composed of groups and associations representing P-20 education – including k-12 school districts and both private and public colleges – the Illinois hospital system and the Illinois AFL-CIO and affiliated building trades.
“Capital projects put thousands of people to work in every corner of our state while making much needed investments to our aging infrastructure,” said Michael Carrigan, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “The 900,000 union members across the state are willing partners in support of a capital plan that addresses needed repairs and upgrades as well as new construction. The coalition is ready to support both lawmakers and the administration in moving a comprehensive plan forward.”
The state is facing billions of dollars in repairs and new construction requests for schools, public universities, sewer and water systems, roads, bridges and state facilities. Illinois’ state facilities occupy over 8,700 buildings and 101 million square feet of floor space. They serve diverse needs, ranging from prisons to universities, mental health hospitals, and state parks.
The Capital Development Board estimates for repairs to state facilities are projected to be $7.8 billion, just under $6.7 billion for public universities and $9.4 billion for preK-12 schools.
“We know there has been a lot of discussion about the need to repair our roads and bridges,” said AJ Wilhelmi, President and CEO of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association. “But it is critical that the state invest in its healthcare infrastructure – specifically, the hospitals that are the economic anchors of our communities.”
IHA is proposing the Hospital Transformation Capital Program – to invest $500 million in state capital funds in hospitals that need to transform their aging facilities to build a coordinated, person-centered system of health and human services that will serve their communities for today and tomorrow.
“The healthcare landscape is changing dramatically from an inpatient-based system to an outpatient-focused system,” said Wilhelmi. “This means that hospital buildings constructed over the past century to provide inpatient care need to be modernized, and in some cases, repurposed to fit today’s healthcare model.”
With a rising backlog of deferred maintenance, the state’s public universities and community colleges are using money meant for their daily operations to pay for maintenance projects on buildings.
“Over the past five years, we have invested between $4 million and $6 million annually of our own resources in general revenue on construction of facilities to ensure that they remain safe and functioning,” ISU President Larry Dietz said. “Had capital funds been available, that money could have been used for scholarships, additional faculty and support staff or new technologies.”
“Illinois needs cranes on campuses and bulldozers at building sites. Construction projects signal that Illinois is open for business,” said State Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who is leading conversations in the Senate about statewide construction priorities. “Highway and bridge repairs are vitally important, but any statewide infrastructure plan has to balance those priorities with our need for new schools, modern hospitals and 21st century college facilities. There has to be a healthy mix.”
“The list of construction needs continues to grow by the day, which is why it is imperative that we get a capital bill done sooner rather than later,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville). “But any plan must balance the need for transportation-related projects with new building construction and repair, which is what this coalition is calling for.”
State colleges and universities have asked for around $2 billion in capital funds for the next fiscal year.
“Our needs are great. It’s been ten years since the state last approved a capital bill and during that time, our colleges and universities weathered a budget stalemate,” said Dr. Sam, President of Elgin Community College. “An infusion of capital funding for buildings and repairs will certainly help in our ability to attract students to our campuses.”.
Whew, that’s a lot of needs.