Stadelman returns to Capitol to pass budget, address COVID-19 challenges

State Senator Steve Stadelman returned to Springfield last week for the reconvening of the Illinois Senate after over two months of being unable to meet because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The unusual circumstances that we passed a budget under cannot be overstated," Stadelman said. “We had to not only pass a responsible budget, but to also address the vast challenges the state has now been place under by COVID-19.”

Stadelman said the budget will help provide stability as the state copes with a global pandemic. He noted additional funding Illinois received under the federal CARES Act that will be distributed to local governments, provide rent and mortgage assistance and relief to small businesses, among other efforts.

“This budget addresses some of the most important challenges facing downstate communities like mine.” Stadelman said. “Health care workers and essential employees are on the frontline every day to ensure our safety and livelihood. They need assistance, and they need it now. That is reflected in this budget.”

Stadelman also emphasized the state's commitment to holding the line for K-12 and higher education funding.

“As a state we need to make sure that we continue to maintain steady funding for our schools,” Stadelman said. “Districts have had to significantly adjust due to COVID-19. It was important that we showed our students and educators that they are a priority.”

Property tax relief bill wins Stadelman's support

With property taxpayers across Illinois suffering, State Senator Steve Stadelman voted for legislation that will defer tax sales and gives counties the ability to extend homestead exemptions and waive late fees.

“Property taxes can be a significant financial burden for residents of communities like Rockford,” Stadelman said. “This legislation will provide much needed relief to ease the financial burden on our communities.”

The latest measure compliments other state legislation to reduce the local property burden including a new school funding formula that benefits low-income districts including Rockford and Harlem. Two recent Rockford Register articles illustrate the positive impact of those efforts:

The new relief package gives county assessment officers the ability to approve homestead exemptions without 2020 applications for residents with disabilities, veterans with disabilities and senior citizens who qualify for assessment freezes.

Exemption extensions are permitted if:

• the county board has previously declared a local disaster related to COVID-19;
• the owner of the property as of Jan. 1, 2020 is the same owner as of Jan. 1, 2019;
• the applicant for the 2019 taxable year has not yet asked for the exemption to be removed for the 2019 or 2020 taxable year;
• the exemption for the 2019 taxable year has not been determined to be an erroneous exemption.

County assessment officers are still permitted to conduct audits of taxpayers claiming an exemption to verify the applicant is eligible to receive the senior citizen’s assessment freeze through the homestead exemption.

Senate Bill 685 also defers tax sales and gives counties authority to waive property tax interest penalties.

Stadelman delivers $7.5 million toward proposed downtown innovations

State Senator Steve Stadelman has secured $2.5 million in matching funds pivotal to a $100 million transformation of dated three- and four-lane downtown roads into safer, more inviting and user-friendly two-lane streets with dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lanes and parallel parking.

Stadelman designated the state match from the Rebuild Illinois capital program when the General Assembly approved its new budget last week in Springfield.During last week's special legislative session, He also Stadelman also obtained $2.5 million for upgrades to the BMO Harris Bank Center and another $2.5 million for renovations at Davis Park.

The state's contribution to the Downtown Rockford Complete Streets Project is a key part of a $22.5 million federal grant application that would combine with private investment to bring at least $100 million in improvements to the region's urban core. A previous application in 2019 for a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant lacked a state match and failed to receive approval of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"Without Senator Stadelman's support, Rockford's application would not be in a strong position to win," said Bryan Davis, vice president of Government Affairs for SupplyCore, a private-sector partner. "The state's financial commitment greatly adds to the chances of Rockford prevailing in a very competitive federal grant program that doles out $1 billion annually."

If awarded, the BUILD grant would pay for reconstruction of the one-way Jefferson and Chestnut streets, reducing the number of lanes reserved for motor vehicles to slow traffic and reduce crashes. Bicycle and pedestrian lanes with a median and parallel parking would be added. The grant also would pay for the "circulator route" of electric buses looping downtown every 15 minutes.

Stadelman called the Complete Streets proposal a "visionary leveraging" of an estimated $1 billion in urban renewal efforts that span 20 years from the restoration of the landmark Coronado Theater to the conversion of the abandoned Amerock factory into a high-rise luxury hotel.

"If the return is an additional $100 million, the state is making a smart investment with its $2.5 million contribution," Stadelman said. "Not only does this proposal improve traffic safety, it literally ties together the many large and small public and private investments that have contributed to the rebounding downtown we know today. That synergy is important because the economic fortune of our whole region depends on Rockford's prosperity, which depends on the continued evolution of downtown."

The full local match approaches $9 million with another $5.5 million coming from municipal funds and $900,000 from Rockford Mass Transit District.

"Having an exciting downtown where people want to live, work and play benefits everyone," Stadelman said.