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Illinois' state ag agency takes another budget hit
 

 

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Already hit by a two-year budget stalemate, officials with the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) are financially adjusting once again because of cuts announced late last month by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office.

 

Cuts to the state’s roughly $34 billion budget approved earlier this year are the first round of changes that Rauner’s office announced Oct. 19 because the budget overall is still about $1.5 billion underfunded, the Governor said.

This initial round of cuts total about $156 million, with $21 million ordered to be sliced from the IDOA’s ledger – money that likely will come from the agency’s marketing efforts, a spokeswoman for Rauner said.

The ag agency didn’t take the hardest hit in the cuts – human service agencies, including after-school programs, will have to do without an extra $89 million to their budgets this year.

Rauner spokeswoman Patty Schuh said he was forced to make reductions because the General Assembly approved a spending plan that was not balanced, something Illinois law requires. “The governor received a budget $1.7 billion out of balance and has to take action where possible to begin reducing that structural imbalance,” she said.

Rauner, a Republican, was locked in a budget battle with longtime Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan for two years, when the state went without a General Assembly-approved spending plan. Rauner wanted what he called structural changes to the way the state did business, including significant changes to workers’ compensation laws, regulations regarding government unions and term limits for most state officials.

They are mostly positions opposed by Madigan and fellow Democrats. As the impasse continued, the state racked up nearly $6 billion in unpaid bills. That number has decreased a bit, to about $5 billion now, since the legislature approved a controversial income tax increase by a narrow margin late this summer.

The new cuts by Rauner’s office aren’t as significant to most agencies, said Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans – who leads on the Senate’s appropriations committees – because they don’t completely gut any one program, particularly with the IDOA.

“I believe they worked to preserve those greatly, and that’s about 95 percent (funding level),” she said. “I certainly appreciate they’re not just going in and cutting those willy-nilly. They may have made some reductions, but primarily they were keeping all of those programs and not just going to zero on them.”

But the cuts will have a significant impact on ag officials, said Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. “We are disappointed by some of the reductions and will continue to advocate for efficient levels of funding for agricultural programs,” he said.

“The state’s continuing fiscal crisis means that options for new revenue are constantly being reviewed. Nothing is off-limits. That is why we will continue to educate legislators on the importance of sound tax policies, such as the sales tax incentives on seed, feed, ag inputs and equipment.”

The IDOA budget this year totals approximately $98 million, about $13 million more than what the department was allocated to spend last year, according to the state budget document.

Part of the cuts announced by Rauner’s office will impact the state’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts. They are pegged to receive $5 million in state funds, the same as last year, but $6 million in new funding will be eliminated under the spending cuts.

An additional $5 million for University of Illinois extension programs also was axed.

Cuts to the state’s roughly $34 billion budget approved earlier this year are the first round of changes that Rauner’s office announced Oct. 19 because the budget overall is still about $1.5 billion underfunded, the Governor said.

This initial round of cuts total about $156 million, with $21 million ordered to be sliced from the IDOA’s ledger – money that likely will come from the agency’s marketing efforts, a spokeswoman for Rauner said.

The ag agency didn’t take the hardest hit in the cuts – human service agencies, including after-school programs, will have to do without an extra $89 million to their budgets this year.

Rauner spokeswoman Patty Schuh said he was forced to make reductions because the General Assembly approved a spending plan that was not balanced, something Illinois law requires. “The governor received a budget $1.7 billion out of balance and has to take action where possible to begin reducing that structural imbalance,” she said.

Rauner, a Republican, was locked in a budget battle with longtime Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan for two years, when the state went without a General Assembly-approved spending plan. Rauner wanted what he called structural changes to the way the state did business, including significant changes to workers’ compensation laws, regulations regarding government unions and term limits for most state officials.

They are mostly positions opposed by Madigan and fellow Democrats. As the impasse continued, the state racked up nearly $6 billion in unpaid bills. That number has decreased a bit, to about $5 billion now, since the legislature approved a controversial income tax increase by a narrow margin late this summer.

The new cuts by Rauner’s office aren’t as significant to most agencies, said Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans – who leads on the Senate’s appropriations committees – because they don’t completely gut any one program, particularly with the IDOA.

“I believe they worked to preserve those greatly, and that’s about 95 percent (funding level),” she said. “I certainly appreciate they’re not just going in and cutting those willy-nilly. They may have made some reductions, but primarily they were keeping all of those programs and not just going to zero on them.”

But the cuts will have a significant impact on ag officials, said Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. “We are disappointed by some of the reductions and will continue to advocate for efficient levels of funding for agricultural programs,” he said.

“The state’s continuing fiscal crisis means that options for new revenue are constantly being reviewed. Nothing is off-limits. That is why we will continue to educate legislators on the importance of sound tax policies, such as the sales tax incentives on seed, feed, ag inputs and equipment.”

The IDOA budget this year totals approximately $98 million, about $13 million more than what the department was allocated to spend last year, according to the state budget document.

Part of the cuts announced by Rauner’s office will impact the state’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts. They are pegged to receive $5 million in state funds, the same as last year, but $6 million in new funding will be eliminated under the spending cuts.

An additional $5 million for University of Illinois extension programs also was axed.

11/8/2017