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Millions more proposed for the Illinois Secretary of State to ‘modernize’

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(The Center Square) – The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office has proposed an $825 million fiscal 2025 budget, $35 million of which will be allocated for modernization.

Last year, Secretary Alexi Giannoulias went before the Senate Appropriations Committee and asked for approximately $200 million to complete the office’s modernization effort. The General Assembly ultimately appropriated $75 million last fiscal year for such programs.

“I am indeed grateful for the massively critical down payment in our state’s future,” said Giannoulias. “While we didn’t receive the entire amount year one, I understand and respect the many budgetary requests the General Assembly is asked and how tough your jobs are. The money has been well spent.”

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said modernization is past due and that he’s noticed a decrease in constituents calling his office to complain about drivers and motor vehicle services. The “Skip the Line” program began in September 2023. It allows motorists to renew their license without going to a DMV.

“I just want to say thanks Mr. Secretary for the effort you’re putting in to get this thing to a … I’m going to say 2024 but I’ll say 2014,” said Rose. “The online system is just great. I was using it just yesterday in my private life and this thing has just come so far in a short amount of time.”

Giannoulias wants to upgrade the office’s IT infrastructure, switch from a Cobol coding system and fix cyber security needs to avoid massive operational disruptions.

For the first time ever, the Secretary of State’s Office has used taxpayer funds to create a “one stop shop” experience at the DMV.

Giannoulias explained how his team has worked to combine driver services and vehicle services.

“In the past, you could go to a facility and on the driver services side there could be a two-hour wait and you have employees who are exhausted, flummoxed and sweating and then on the vehicle services side, it’s a slow day and no one is in line and then you have 15 employees twiddling their thumbs,” said Giannoulias. “Because of our ‘one stop shop’ we are combining all training and all technology, which require modernization, so that way everyone can do everything.”

The office implemented this combination at a Plano DMV as a pilot program and Giannoulias said it’s an “understatement to say it has been a success.”

Rose said more people from his side of the aisle need to thank the office’s team publicly.

“Your team needs to be thanked publicly, and frankly from folks on our side of the aisle too because we are all Illinoisans. You’re taking it seriously and doing what needs to be done and I have noticed it. It’s not often I get to say ‘thanks’ to someone in the state government for seeing a problem and fixing it.”

According to Giannoulias, the “Skip the Line” program has led to an increase in online driver’s license renewals. Prior to the program there were 36,000 online renewals a month. Now there are 93,000 renewals a month. The office also wants to launch a pilot program to place DMV fast-lane kiosks throughout the state, which Giannoulias said would be in some Illinois grocery stores soon.

For the first time ever, the office issued a request for proposal for an electronic entitling system, so they can issue a vehicle title to a lender or buyer electronically.

“We are taking steps towards a paperless future,” said Giannoulias. “By automating our Court of Claims system with an e-filing system, it is the only court system in the entire state without an e-filing system in place.”

According to VirtuaQ, the average wait time at the DMV in Illinois is 30 minutes.