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Manar: Illinois needs healthy mix of projects in capital plan

Sen. Andy Manar

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar on Wednesday joined a coalition of labor, higher education and health care advocates in calling for vertical construction projects to be included in a comprehensive statewide infrastructure plan.

“Illinois needs cranes on campuses and bulldozers at building sites. Construction projects signal that Illinois is open for business,” said 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 newly formed Build Up Illinois coalition comprises groups and associations representing K-12 school districts, community colleges, universities, the Illinois hospital system, 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.”

Illinois faces billions of dollars in repairs and new construction requests for schools, public universities, sewer and water systems, roads, bridges and state facilities that occupy more than 8,700 buildings and 101 million square feet of floor space. They serve diverse needs, including prisons, universities, mental health hospitals and state parks.



The Capital Development Board estimates repairs to state facilities at $7.8 billion, just under $6.7 billion for public universities and $9.4 billion for public 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 health care infrastructure – specifically, the hospitals that are the economic anchors of our communities.”

IHA is proposing the Hospital Transformation Capital Program, which would invest $500 million in state capital funds in hospitals that need to transform aging facilities and build a coordinated, person-centered system of health and human services to serve communities for today and tomorrow.

“The health care landscape is changing dramatically from an inpatient-based system to an outpatient-focused system,” Wilhelmi said. “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 health care model.”

With a growing 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,” Illinois State University 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.”

The last major infrastructure initiative was approved by the General Assembly in 2009. It was a $31 billion plan called Illinois Jobs Now!, and it was funded through video gambling, online lottery profits, sales taxes on candy and alcohol and increased vehicle fees.

Additional members of the Build Up Illinois vertical construction coalition include AIA Illinois, Bricklayers State Conference, the IBEW State Conference, the Illinois Association of School Administrators, the Illinois Community College Trustees Association, the Illinois Construction Industry Committee, Illinois Council of Community College Presidents, Illinois High School District Organization, the Illinois Housing Council, St Louis Regional Council of Carpenters, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, and more.