Sunday, June 27, 2004

Budget Woes Continue
The Illinois General Assembly has three days and a few hours to get a budget passed before the new fiscal year starts July 1. An informal poll at shows only a third of respondents think they will be successful. Nearly two out of five think it will be sometime next month.

Part of the problem is the growing disconnect between how much money the state brings in every year into its General Revenue Fund and how much is already promised to go out. There's a structural gap that is widening. So far, the governor has proposed one-time budget deals such as selling of the Jim Thompson Center in Chicago, the state's de facto second capitol building, and raising a swarm of business taxes and regulatory fees.

The parts of state government that aren't as important, or that don't have a large vocal constituency, are getting cut, if not gutted. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency fits both categories, at least on its Historic Sites side. Part of the problem isn't so much budgetary as it is clout. IHPA doesn't operate any sites in Chicago or Cook County and offers few services to citizens in the state's largest city. The situation is almost as bad in the suburbs.

If you don't believe it, check out IHPA's own site map. They have nothing in northeastern Illinois where over half the state's population lives. Granted, there's not as much history in an area with towns that measure their age in just decades when places downstate such as Kaskaskia just celebrated its tricentennial. Still, the agency has failed in developing a solid constituency that would support their budget.

Something has to be done to move forward the state's system of preserving, enhancing and interpreting our history. It won't be done during this session, but maybe, just maybe, something will happen in the months to come.

As to funding for the Old Slave House, sure it's still possible, but I'm not holding my breath. So for now it will remain closed until Springfield decides that looking outside the box for a solution just might be a better idea.


Post a Comment

<< Home