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Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 02:19 pm

Rauner proposes independent ALPLM

Historic sites would merge with DNR

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, now under the umbrella of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, would become a standalone agency while the remainder of IHPA would merge with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget unveiled Wednesday.

The proposal, which would eliminate IHPA, apparently took the agency by surprise.

“I haven’t seen anything,” said James Bruner, chairman of the IHPA board of trustees. “It just came out yesterday. The governor and I have not talked about this.”

Similarly, Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said that the governor’s office has not briefed the speaker about merging IHPA with the Department of Natural Resources.

In a sense, Rauner's proposed shakeup is a case of déjà vu all over again.

House Speaker Michael Madigan in 2014 proposed making the ALPLM a standalone agency in the midst of a bitter power struggle between the head of the institution and the head of IHPA, both of whom have left state employ since Rauner became governor. The speaker’s proposal died after IHPA officials warned that costs would increase, but the idea survived, and Gov. Rauner after taking office in 2015 proposed making the ALPLM an independent institution and merging IHPA with the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. That proposal also died.

Prior to the creation of IHPA in 1985, the state’s historic sites were administered by the Illinois Department of Conservation, precursor agency to the DNR. The IHPA oversees more than 50 historic sites. Several are in the Springfield area, including the Dana-Thomas House, the Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, Lincoln’s Tomb, the Old State Capitol, the World War II Illinois Veterans Memorial and Lincoln’s New Salem.

According to the governor’s proposed budget, staffing at the ALPLM would increase from 47 in fiscal year 2016 to a target of 80 in the upcoming fiscal year. According to the proposed budget, the institution has an estimated 65 employees during the current fiscal year. It’s not clear from the governor’s proposed budget where additional money to pay employees would come from.

The governor’s budget does not say why ALPLM should become an independent agency, but the proposed budget states that putting DNR in charge of historic sites would save $3.2 million.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

 

 

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