After a couple of weeks of feeling the sting of the public’s frustration, members of the Illinois House of Representatives this week have an opportunity to correct the misguided budget cuts mandated by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
As they gather in Springfield, state House members must come up with an alternative budget plan that makes more sense than the random cuts the governor required of state agency heads in late August. Then, they must convince their counterparts in the state Senate to follow suit.
As we reported in last week’s edition of The Leader-Union, those mandated cuts resulted in the decision to close the Vandalia Statehouse – as well as a number of other historic sites and state parks. Several conservation and social services agencies also will see their budgets trimmed significantly.
And though we certainly feel that there’s fat to be carved out of the state’s budget, the recent cuts make absolutely no sense. Why, as we approach the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, would we close the doors of the historic sites and parks that millions of people will come to see? Why would we gut the economies of so many communities that depend on traffic from those historic sites and parks. Does anyone in Springfield remember that tourism is the No. 2 industry in Illinois?
It’s not lost on anyone that the vast majority of the communities impacted by the cuts are in downstate Illinois. A few judicious budget reductions in Chicago could more than overcome the devastation these closures are imposing on downstate communities.
It all is beginning to smell like yet another political power play, as the governor tries to gain leverage for his pet projects and favors for his Chicago cronies. And it’s communities like Vandalia that are feeling the majority of the pain.
As we said last week, we must continue to let our political representatives know of our frustration, and we can sign the petitions that are circulating. One way or another, the folks who are supposed to represent us in Springfield must know that we’re mad as heck and we aren’t going to take it any more.
Otherwise, we’ll just continue to get the short end of the stick.