State-site funds a political football

Doug Finke/GateHouse News Service

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has quietly approved a bill diverting $221 million from restricted state funds that lawmakers want to use to avert more than 300 layoffs and the closure of two dozen parks and historic sites.

But whether those layoffs and closures are averted is far from certain.

The Blagojevich administration said Oct. 8 more than $50 million of the $221 million lawmakers want diverted may be off-limits, and that it is up to Comptroller Dan Hynes to decide how much money is available.

Hynes’ office responded that the governor is wrong, and that Hynes is obligated by law to transfer the entire amount.

Further muddying the issue is that Blagojevich still hasn’t signed a companion bill that authorizes spending the money. Even if he does, the administration is not obligated to spend it.

“It isn’t a guarantee he won’t close parks and lay off these people,” said Rep. Gary Hannig of Litchfield, one of the Democrats’ top budget negotiators.

The proposed closed sites include the Bishop Hill Museum, Colony Church and Bjorklund Hotel – all in Bishop Hill – Jubilee College State Historic Site near Brimfield, and the Carl Sandburg site in Galesburg.