Thursday, November 18, 2004

Budget Battle: Take 3
An article in today's State Journal-Register in Springfield highlights just how tough next year's budget battle will be for Illinois lawmakers.

The article is titled, More Budget Trouble Likely. Apparently, new state revenue for the next fiscal year is projected at only $325 million. While that's a lot to you and me, it's a drop in the bucket for what the state needs. Pension costs alone will need an additional $600 million.

So what does this mean for state historic sites and parks? Probably another round of layoffs. Rumors were already floating around Tuesday for major personnel cuts in the Department of Natural Resources that operates the state park system.

Even before the current budget crisis began (now dragging into its third year), Illinois underfunded its system of state historic sites and parks, not to the point where programs were cut, but to the point where numerous sites were padlocked and mothballed with the public warned not to trespass. Since these sites are almost all located in rural areas, many in counties with high unemployement, these actions only further complicated with economic recovery efforts being made in those areas. Obviously, something needs to be done.

Open it NOW! Friends of the Old Slave House's proposal for a regional non-profit group to operate the Old Slave House is just one idea. It won't cost the state money and it will reopen a mothballed site in a county desperate for any type of new economic activity.

Other states use third parties to operate their sites, or charge admission. It's time that Illinois realized that its days of utopian fiscal fantasies are over.


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