CHICAGO, Nov. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Fitch Ratings announced today that the Illinois Finance Authority's (IFA) Clean Water Initiative (CWI) revolving fund revenue bonds have earned the 'AAA' rating – the highest possible ranking. This news follows Standard & Poor's Ratings Service assignment of its 'AAA' rating to the bonds on Tuesday.
Under the leadership of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Illinois Finance Authority Chairman Bill Brandt, the IFA, together with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, launched the CWI in October 2012. The state program makes nearly $1 billion in low-cost loans available to local governments investing in waste water and drinking water programs.
"The Illinois Finance Authority is pleased that S&P and Fitch have recognized the strong security structure of the Clean Water Initiative Bond issue as evidenced by the Triple-A ratings assigned this week," said Chris Meister, executive director of the IFA. "The Bonds will enable the IEPA to fund Clean Water Initiative projects that will improve water quality throughout the state thereby supporting economic, industrial, and commercial development for the next generation in a fiscally responsible and financially sound manner."
The IFA pooled federal and state funds and leveraged existing Illinois EPA assets into a fund of nearly $1 billion. The Clean Water Initiative is expected to support 28,000 jobs throughout Illinois. According to the U.S. EPA, Illinois' total water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years total $35 billion, which ranks among the highest in the nation.
"Governor Quinn's Clean Water Initiative could be the difference-maker for communities all over the state who recognize the need to invest in infrastructure that will support jobs and economic development for the next century," said Lisa Bonnett, Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. "Not only can communities ensure the safety of their drinking water, they can improve their quality of life and attract families and businesses looking to put down roots in Illinois."
Among the communities throughout Illinois already seeing direct benefits from loans through the CWI is Kankakee. In April of 2013, Governor Quinn was joined by U.S. Rep Robin Kelly (D-Ill) and Director Bonnett to announce a $21.5 million investment for a major upgrade of the Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency (KRMA) wastewater treatment plant. The plant currently serves a population of nearly 70,000 customers, and experts expect that to grow to more than 100,000 by the year 2030. On average more than 25 million gallons flow through the plant every day.
"This program helped us access low-cost financing, while saving taxpayers and putting people back to work," said Don Green, Chairman of the Board of the Kankakee River Metropolitan Agency. "It truly is a win-win; this project preserves the longevity of the river, cleans up the drinking water supply and serves as an economic stimulus by creating thousands of jobs."
Loans originated under the Initiative are helping communities and sanitary districts across the state improve water quality, avoid expensive emergency repairs, and pre-empting sewage discharge or system malfunctions that could threaten public health and safety.
The Clean Water Initiative dramatically expands the money available to local communities to replace the old systems at no cost to state taxpayers. This program frees up additional dollars at low borrowing rates and also removes some restrictions on earlier lending programs to make it easier for local governments to improve a community's water system, ensuring safe drinking water and improving waste water management.
"The Clean Water Initiative has only been in place for a little more than a year and the growth rate in funding under the Initiative has been substantial," said Meister. "Under the wise and steadfast leadership of Governor Pat Quinn and IFA Chairman Bill Brandt, this self-sustaining program clearly demonstrates that we can do more with less."
"The projects funded through this program help improve the quality of life for people throughout our state and will support the business climate for many years to come," said Governor Pat Quinn. "Furthermore, revenues generated from loan repayments can be used to meet the original state match requirement, rather than appropriations, which frees up Illinois tax dollars for other vital public programs."
SOURCE Illinois Finance Authority