Latest budget's impact on tourism

By Kelsey Gibbs |

Published 06/13 2014 07:01PM

Updated 06/16 2014 12:11PM

ILLINOIS -- The new budget bill is projecting deep cuts to state agencies which could impact tourism. WCIA-3's Kelsey Gibbs explains.

"We need to preserve our history."

Richard Essex has been to the Lincoln Tomb numerous times. And each time he visits, he gets emotional.

"Awed. I'm humbled and a little bit somber some times."

But, unfortunately the latest budget deal will mean huge cuts to historic sites.

"There are definitely cuts that need to take place but I don't think it's worth our history."

The Historic Preservation Agency is projecting cuts well over $1 million to places like the Lincoln Tomb, the Dana Thomas House and Lincoln's New Salem.

"We operate sites and it takes people to run those sites, so if you take away money, that's what could be affected."

One suggestion floating around is charging admission fees at the sites to pick up the tab. But, Chris Wills, spokesperson with the Historic Agency says it's too soon to discuss that.

"We feel, if we did charge anything, that would significantly reduce attendance."

Other options could mean reduction in hours or closures. Wills says the tourist industry drives in about 2.6 million people; people who spend money in Illinois.

"Those 2.6 million people buy gas. They stop and have lunch. They buy souvenirs. All of that is a nice injection of money in the state's economy, so we would hate to lose that."

He says the agency hopes for a new budget plan. There's also been some promising comments from Senate President John Cullerton (D) about the need to restore funding in the fall which may affect decision-making.

The temporary income tax hike is set to expire in January. Because of that, many state agencies will see a significant decrease in funding.

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