September 10, 2008

Hope for the IDNR

Today legislators in the House and Senate began a campaign to keep our state parks open, and avoid the layoffs of IDNR staff looking out for our natural resources.

State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Champaign-Urbana) and State Sen. Linda Holmes announced bills in both the House (HB 6698) and Senate (SB 3057) to restore the cuts made by the Governor in July.

Jakobsson and other sponsors of the House legislation held a press conference in Springfield today to call for the cuts to be restored, and Holmes issued a statement:
“The budget cuts would result in drastic reductions at IDNR, and close parks and historic sites that are economic engines for local communities," said Holmes. "The IDNR staff who work every day to protect our drinking water, wildlife, and provide safe outdoor recreation opportunities are too important to be on the chopping block because of political fighting in Springfield.”

The cuts also threaten funding for an effort to plan and secure future drinking water supplies for the entire state, particularly the fast-growing northeastern Illinois region.

"Protecting enough clean water is a major challenge for our fast- growing communities, and these cuts threaten to halt those efforts before we have a plan for the future," said Holmes. "Our local governments and citizens have been working hard on the Regional Water Supply Study, and to stop now would jeopardize reliable drinking water for future generations.”
The House Democrats have introduced a third proposal that would restore enough funding to prevent park closures and layoffs, but not replace all the Department's funding. That is expected to be heard today or tomorrow. The Senate has not yet scheduled any session days prior to the cuts taking effect November 1st.

We're a long way from saving these jobs and parks, but at least it's a start. Hopefully their leaders and colleagues will follow the lead of Jakobsson and Holmes, and save IDNR from the chopping block. The clock is ticking.