Coincidentally, I was on the phone Thursday afternoon with Becky Clark, head of communications for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. She was busy answering my questions about the Illinois State Fair when all of a sudden she gasped: “The House just passed a budget!”
Her relief was palpable over the phone. Even a stopgap budget spreads a little money around. For IDOA, that means:
- * $5 million for Soil & Water Conservation District operations, conservation cost-share practices
- * $13 million-plus for University of Illinois Cooperative Extension
- * Secures FY17 funding for Galesburg Animal Disease lab (animal disease testing and meat inspection)
- * $2.6 million to continue regulatory functions of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program
The bill also secures funding at the FY2015 level for county fairs. Broken out, it looks like this:
- * $1.3 million for county fair rehab
- * $1.8 million for county fair premiums
- * $900,000 for fairs & expositions
- * $786,000 for ag extension
- * $325,000 for vo ag fairs
But here’s the thing: none of this fixes anything. The Illinois legislative body has waited over a year to pluck the lowest hanging fruit and is presenting it to us as a bumper crop.
Buildings will continue in disrepair, county fairs will continue to struggle, buildings remain closed at the Illinois State Fair. Schools get by…for a while. Agencies that protect land and water will continue to be underfunded. Businesses will continue to leave Illinois. Chicago Public Schools will continue to bleed (our) money.
Because nothing was fixed.
It’s like this: a couple weeks ago, we discovered our new young bull had a (brace yourself here) broken penis. An unfortunate pasture accident, to be certain. As of this writing, he’s receiving veterinary care and resting in the barn.
Metaphorically speaking, however, if this bull with the broken penis were the Illinois budget, it is as if the Illinois General Assembly got him in, washed him and clipped him up nice, and then sent him back out to pasture with a slap on his back and, “Good luck, buddy! Next year’s calf crop better be a good one!”
We should feel equally disheartened by this band-aid budget. Our legislators just sent us back out to the pasture to do a job we are wholly unequipped to do.
We should expect more, and they should deliver it. No excuses.