Government
10:13 am
Fri June 15, 2012

State Park funding bill likely to rise again

Funding for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is likely to be called for another vote — either this summer if the Legislature is called back into session, or in the fall veto session — according to State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley.

Attempts to fund the department, which supervises state parks and other recreational facilities, failed to pass the state Senate this spring.

Mautino told the LaSalle NewsTribune that he is confident the bill has enough votes to pass when it is called again.

Enough legislators are committed to vote for it, he said, “but when the bill was finally called at 1 o’clock in the morning” on May 31, it fell short because two state Senators were not on the Senate floor at that time.

The bill is part of a package that includes cutting $11 million in IDNR’s expenditures by eliminating department responsibilities considered either redundant with federal oversight or not essential.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, also said she expects to see the bill come up again and will have to take a close look at the legislation. She voted against the bill in May.

“I do think Representative Mautino went about negotiating this bill the right way, and I commend him for it,” she told the NewsTribune. “And I do think that many people in our caucus who don’t vote for fee increases realize that DNR, in the past 10 years, their funding has been decimated.”

The cuts were developed after IDNR head Marc Miller submitted a budget for the department. Those changes already have been approved and await Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.

The bill that still awaits Senate approval would include a $2-per-year license plate fee for all Illinois vehicle owners, as well as fees for user groups such as canoe and kayak users.

If the funding bills are approved this summer or in the fall session, Mautino said they still could be effective beginning Jan. 1. But because of the time it takes to print stickers, he expected the earliest the plan could be implemented would be in March 2013.

“The state parks are very important to tourism in the area. They’re important to people who take staycations in the area,” Rezin said.