Frequently Asked Questions on SB 1566
1. What does SB1566 do for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)?
SB1566 was designed with input from more than three dozen agency user groups which agreed upon increased or new charges for services provided by the IDNR. The bill will generate new revenue streams that will help the IDNR fix aging infrastructure and other facilities at our state parks, hire staff to continue important IDNR programs and speed up the agency’s vast regulatory functions.
2. Where is that money coming from and who pays for it?
The bulk of the revenue will come from a $2 increase on Illinois Motor Vehicle Registration fee which is paid annually on every registered vehicle in Illinois. In addition, SB1566 also increased or created several other specific user fees which are paid solely by those individuals and groups who use particular services or programs administered or provided by the IDNR.
3. How much money will the bill generate for the IDNR?
Revenues generated by the Illinois Motor Vehicle Registration Fee are projected to generate $18-20 million annually. Combined with other specific user fees in the bill, the total new funding for the IDNR is projected to generate $30-33 million per year.
4. What will the IDNR use the money for?
Funds generated from the Motor Vehicle Registration fee will be used solely in state parks and other IDNR sites in two ways; hire more staff to maintain our parks properly and to fix aging infrastructure. The Illinois State Parks System faces over $750 million in defer="defer"red maintenance and capital needs, including deteriorating bath and shower facilities, outdated and dangerous electrical systems, concerns with potable water systems because of well failures and testing issues, failure of sewage treatment facilities, and repair work on roads, bridges, and trails damaged because of storms and age related deterioration.
5. Are there restrictions on how the money can be spent?
Yes certain fees are designated to support specific functions. Also, revenues may be restricted based on the fund in which the money is deposited. Many special funds have existing designations for how the money in them can be spent. The $2 motor vehicle registration fee is statutorily split: $1 for the Department’s normal operations and $1 for construction and maintenance of our sites.
6. How quickly will I start to see that money used in my area?
It is projected to take between 9-12 months for the IDNR to begin to capture these new revenues. While the IDNR will act as quickly as possible to use these new revenues in meaningful and purposeful ways it won’t happen overnight.
7. Why does the IDNR need more funding?
Over the last 10 years the IDNR has lost more than 50% of its General Revenue funding it receives annually. In 2002 General Revenue funding (GRF) for the IDNR was over $100 million. Today IDNR receives less than $50 million. The IDNR has 1,400 FEWER employees than it did 10 years ago. Those employees are responsible for every program and service the agency provides to its constituents including maintaining state parks, regulatory functions, Law enforcement, and conservation and natural areas protection.
8. I don’t use state parks. Why should this be important to me?
Even if you don’t use state parks or other IDNR services, the health of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a financial effect in the lives of everyone in Illinois. Activities associated with IDNR support 90,000 jobs and have at least $32 billion worth of economic impact annually. Without proper staff to carry out IDNR programs and services, that impact would dry up within the state negatively affecting local taxes and quality of life.
9. How can the IDNR assure that these new funds won’t be used for purposes outside the agency? Specific language within SB1566 which was agreed upon by the Governor’s office and House Speaker’s office prevents the money generated by the bill to be used for anything other than funding the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
10. How is the IDNR going to prioritize how these new revenues will be spent?
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will use public safety as its main criteria for prioritizing projects. Those projects that help protect the public’s safety will be considered priority projects. Because of the size of the backlog of maintenance projects ($750 million worth) without additional revenue it will take decades to make all necessary repairs.
11. Will out of state visitors have to pay to get into Illinois State Parks?
Yes. IDNR is developing an effective plan to charge and collect money for out of state visitors that use Illinois state parks.
12. Will out of state guests at state park lodges be required to pay to enter the park?
The IDNR will work with concessionaires in all of our state parks in developing a plan which may grant certain exceptions but possible exceptions have not been determined at this time. Currently out of state visitors staying at lodges within state parks are not required to pay an entry fee.