A Weekly Update on Issues with Illinois State Senator Gary Forby...
The end of May is the time of year that the General Assembly usually works on big issues. There’s a lot on our plate this year with the governor pushing Medicaid reform and pension reform, in addition to a balanced budget. I believe all of us want a balanced budget—where we disagree is how to balance it. One issue that has drawn a lot of attention here in Southern Illinois is state park funding.
First off, let me say that I believe we need to find a way to keep state parks open and available to the public—and do it in a way that won’t keep people away from the many parks here in Southern Illinois. Parks and Wildlife Areas like Giant City, Ferne Clyffe, Cave-in-Rock, and Rend Lake draw tourists to our area from all over Illinois and all over the Midwest. They bring local businesses much-needed customers, and they give everyone access to Illinois’ natural beauty.
Unfortunately, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has seen its budget repeatedly slashed—even before the Great Recession began in 2008. The men and women who work for DNR have done a great job doing more with less, but anyone who’s visited a park in the last few years has seen the effects of budget cuts. Realistically, the best we can hope to do is hold the line and prevent further cuts to DNR funding. Even that may be difficult this year, with major cuts proposed in almost every area—including K-12 education spending, public safety, and more. I will fight for Southern Illinois state parks and do what I can to make sure things don’t get worse, but it’s going to be a tough year, and Chicago-area legislators often seem more than willing to cut funding for things like agriculture and state parks.