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Hospitals, Colleges and Universities Want In On Infrastructure Plan

Mary Hansen
NPR Illinois
Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said lawmakers should include improvements to buildings at colleges, universities and hospitals in a statewide infrastructure plan.

David Sam, president of Elgin Community College, said Wednesday the school has received nearly $1 million in donated equipment to help train workers for manufacturing jobs. But there’s a problem  he doesn’t have the space on campus to put it.

“Most of us don’t even have the space to put the equipment so that we can train the much-needed individuals to serve the manufacturing community,” Sam said during a news conference at the statehouse. 

Community colleges are hoping to be considered when it comes to a statewide infrastructure plan. Sam said the Illinois colleges need hundreds of millions of dollars to build new facilities and attend to years of deferred maintenance. 

Universities and hospitals in Illinois also want to be sure they’re included in the infrastructure spending plan legislators are negotiating. They announced a coalition, Build UP Illinois, to lobby for their inclusion.

Illinois AFL-CIO president Michael Carrigan said when politicians talk about a capital plan, most people think of roads and bridges. But he says public buildings should not be ignored.

“The educators and the students that teach and learn, the health givers and critical services delivered to the people and businesses of this state need adequate and modern places to accomplish their missions,” he said. He's also lobbying for annual plans, not just once in a decade, as Illinois has been doing. 

The Illinois Health and Hospital Association proposed $500 million for a hospital construction plan, to be administered by the state.

IHA president A.J. Wilhelmi says healthcare delivery is moving from inpatient to outpatient settings, and it’s hard for hospitals operating with small profit-margins or a deficit to adapt.

“For these hospitals it is difficult to secure the private capital necessary to renew and modernize their facilities to meet the needs of their patients,” he said. “For many communities – this transformation will only happen with an investment by the state of Illinois.”

The only plans introduced in the legislature so far have been for “horizontal” projects, which means highways, bridges, interstates and public transportation. Still, state Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who has been part of negotiations for a statewide infrastructure plan, said he supports funding building repairs as well.

One big question remains though. How will the state pay for it?

Manar said taxes from gambling and liquor, and a fee on ride-sharing apps, among other options, have been discussed.

Legislators agree that the goal is to get a comprehensive plan solidified by the end of this month.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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