|By TIM ALEXANDER
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — When the Illinois House and Senate ended their spring session Thursday by creating the state’s FY2007 budget, Illinois Corn Growers Assoc. (ICGA) President John Kuhfuss was pleased with what the organization called an “ethanol-friendly” bill that will act as a catalyst for renewable fuels.
“This budget sends a clear message that Illinois wants to continue to be an ethanol leader,” said Kuhfuss, a corn grower from Mackinaw.
“It falls short of the comprehensive ethanol and renewable energy strategy pursued in SB 2236, but it is a big step in the right direction nonetheless. The ICGA is appreciative for this state funding and vote of confidence for ethanol.”
The ICGA reports that the most significant portion of the budget will provide $20 million to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for renewable fuel plant development, allowing more bio-refineries to be constructed in the coming year.
“This budget assures we will not only use more Illinois corn and curb our addiction to foreign oil, but it positions the state’s economy to realize its full potential as a new-age energy production center,” Kuhfuss said. “These plants will create rural jobs and benefit the overall State economy so we can hope to be able to continue to work with Speaker Madigan and House leadership to move a longer-term strategy by passing SB 2236 later this year.”
The budget reflects an increase in the state’s fiscal spending of around $1.2 billion more than FY 2006 with $400 million appropriated for elementary and secondary education, health care programs and state pension systems.
According to information provided by the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB), the budget was developed on new revenue realized from natural growth in collections from income and sales taxes. The $1.2 billion “pension holiday” adopted in 2006 defers contributions to state pension plans and transferring of funds from dedicated fund accounts that have positive balances.
The legislature budgeted $3 million for new equipment for the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) at Southern Illinois University at Ed-wardsville to fund testing of ethanol production equipment. The ICGA said $1 million was budgeted for NCERC to fund new research operations.
“The role of the NCERC is to accelerate commercialization of new technology,” said Martha Schlicher, the center’s director.
“It really helps push forward the renewable fuel supply at an economical cost. It also ensures there is a skilled workforce with biofuels and bioprocessing capabilities for this rapidly growing industry.”
For Western Illinois University, $1 million was budgeted for ethanol research focusing on maximizing ethanol yields from corn, and $100,000 was allowed for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to expedite permits for ethanol and biodiesel.
According to the IFB, $20 million was appropriated by the legislature for the Illinois Renewable Fuels Development Program, which funds construction of alternative-fuels facilities.
Sen. Donna Demuzio (D-Carlinville), chief sponsor of SB 2236, has promised to continue to work with the ICGA to achieve that bill’s passage, the ICGA reported.
The ICGA also reported that the Ill. Senate took action Wednesday evening to approve the amended SB 3086, which limits eminent domain powers used for economic development by a vote of 58-0.
The bill will now be sent to Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich for approval.
This farm news was published in the May 10, 2006 issue of Farm World.