PEORIA — Though Gov. Bruce Rauner offered only a handful of specifics in the ritual budget speech Wednesday that came hours before his administration formally unveiled its spending proposal for the coming year, several drew approval for their potential local impact.
Those pertaining to tax credits and education received specific applause in central Illinois, where the impact could easily reach into the tens of millions of dollars.
Rauner called for legislators to make the state's research-and-development tax credit permanent — a subject that Caterpillar Inc. has advocated for many years. Currently, the credit must be renewed periodically, and has on occasion briefly lapsed.
"R&D is the lifeblood of our company; it's what allows us to maintain our position as a leader in every industry we serve," the company said in a statement after the speech, referring to the Mossville facility where the bulk of the Fortune 100 company's research-and-development budget is spent.
"The R&D tax credit is an important tool for Illinois to return to its toolbox in order to incentivize continued and further investment in high-tech job creation in the state."
Without citing a specific number in his speech, Rauner called for added spending on primary and secondary education.
Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat called that "good news" and suggested the state needed to avoid returning to a point where it prorated general state aid funds — that is, provided only a percentage of the allocated funds amount to schools.
Eliminating that practice this past year meant almost $5 million more for the district's coffers, she said.
Also on the education front, Rauner called for the state to stop prorating and instead fully fund its reimbursement of transportation dollars to school districts. Right now, Peoria Public Schools only receives 71 percent of its expected share of those state dollars — a loss of about $1 million this school year.
"The current transportation formula does not cover all our cost," Desmoulin-Kherat said.
Solidifying those funding streams is particularly important, she added, because of continued uncertainty over federal funding. Grants under Titles One, Two, Three and Four expected to see significant reductions, Desmoulin-Kherat said.
Officials at Bradley University, meanwhile, pronounced themselves "encouraged" by Rauner's proposal to increase funding for Monetary Award Program grants by 10 percent.
The funds given to lower-income students — many of whom are first-generation college students — frequently have been held up by the budget impasse, with a group of BU students joining in a rally at the Capitol last week with colleagues at other colleges to advocate for more secure funding.
Rauner's call would mean about another 12,000 eligible students across Illinois would get the funds, allowing "more incoming Bradley students to receive this critical financial aid," university spokeswoman Renee Charles said.
Bradley has 1,122 students receiving the aid from the state — when it comes, as funds last year were delayed — bringing in a total of nearly $5 million to the institution.
In some cases, Charles said, the funds "are the difference between attending college and not attending."
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 686-3255. Follow him at twitter.com/ChrisKaergard.