Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is pledging $115 million in infrastructure improvements as part of his state’s attempt to coax the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to their side of the river. At a press conference near Illinois’ proposed St. Clair County site, the Republican said he can guarantee the money. That’s despite the fact that Illinois is now entering its ninth month without a fiscal budget.
“We don’t have a budget in Illinois but we do have an appropriation bill that I signed that the General Assembly agreed, and we’re going to do that every year,” Rauner said from a podium set up in the baggage claim of the MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.
“The roads around this facility are going to be a core part of the appropriation bills going forward. We’re going to get every road upgraded that’s needed,” Rauner said.
NGA Director Robert Cardillo met with representatives from both Illinois and Missouri on Friday. The NGA is expected to make a preliminary decision on where to build the $1.6 billion project on April 1st. Proposals for St. Clair County and north St. Louis City quickly emerged as front runners, and officials are now entering into the home stretch of making their case to the agency, which employs about 3,100 people in St. Louis.
Illinois’ $115 million in incentives includes about $54 million already being spent on nearby road upgrades and infrastructure, Rauner said. If selected, St. Clair County intends to donate the 182 acres outlined in the proposed site near Scott Air Force Base.
During the press conference, Illinois representatives made their case for moving the NGA’s western headquarters to St. Clair County. Rauner proposed creating a hiring pipeline to the agency from the University of Illinois’ computer science and engineering programs. Senator Mark Kirk said the NGA should be closer to the military in the case of an emergency.
“If the enemy tries to take out NGA—with a 4,000 pound IED, they wouldn’t be able to do that. I want to make sure the NGA is always in the position to deliver key, real time imagery to the war fighter,” Kirk said.
St. Louis officials said they will make a “major announcement” regarding the city’s efforts to retain the NGA on Monday. Their current proposal involves 100 acres of land north of the former Pruitt-Igoe Housing Development. The city has to buy out about 47 property owners and is taking a few to court in eminent domain proceedings. If the NGA moves elsewhere, the city estimates it would lose $2.4 million a year in earnings taxes.
On Friday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a line item in the budget for the U.S. Department of Defense matches Illinois’ proposal: $801,000 for 182-acres.
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