CHICAGO – In a letter to President George W. Bush today, Governor Blagojevich urged the President to reconsider proposed budget cuts that would significantly reduce federal funding in rural Illinois communities. The Governor’s letter is in response to the proposed federal budget that slashes farm subsidies, funding for rural transportation services, rural healthcare grants, and structural improvement grants, among other things.
“As Governor of a Midwestern state that values and depends on its farmers, I am writing to warn you that the federal budget you recently proposed would have a devastating impact on rural communities in Illinois and across America’s Heartland. These agriculture-based communities rely heavily on federal funds to maintain jobs, healthcare, and public services. We in Illinois are working hard to promote and expand our agricultural industry, bring new jobs to Downstate communities and grow local economies, but for us to achieve maximum success, the federal government must uphold its commitment to rural communities as well. I urge you to reconsider the proposed cuts, and to fund those programs that will spur economic growth and improve the quality of life in rural Illinois,” wrote the Governor.
Governor Blagojevich expressed concerns over five areas slated for steep budget cuts: farm subsidies, rural healthcare, the Community Development Block Grant, Amtrak, and Essential Air Services (EAS).
“Like much of the Midwest, rural Illinois is made up of farmers, many of whom rely on federal payment programs to support their business when market prices are low. For many farmers, federal dollars have meant the difference between foreclosure and staying afloat,” wrote Gov. Blagojevich. “Under your proposed budget, however, rural farmers will be stretched to a breaking point.”
Under the President’s proposed budget, 128,000 Illinois farmers will face:
- A 5 percent reduction in commodity payments
- A significant reduction in the payment cap, from $360,000 to $250,000 a year
- Elimination of the “three entity rule,” which could decrease annual subsidies from $720,000 to $250,000 a year
Gov. Blagojevich also opposed the President’s plan to slash 40 percent of HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Program, which funds vital water and sewer system upgrades as well as structural improvements that attract new businesses and create more jobs. The Governor also blasted the President’s proposed cuts to rural healthcare programs, which keep rural hospitals competitive and fund continuing education programs for doctors and nurses. Under the proposed budget, Illinois stands to lose $1,140,000 in rural hospital grants.
“It would be shameful to turn our backs on our own citizens as we spend billions to develop infrastructure in other nations,” wrote Gov. Blagojevich.
The proposed budget also slashes funding for rural transportation services, such as Amtrak and the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.
“Your proposed budget cuts would reduce EAS funding to $50 million in 2006, less than half of what it was last year. This will virtually eliminate air service to rural Illinois communities such as Decatur, Quincy, and Marion, dramatically slowing economic growth in those regions. The proposed budget cuts would also eliminate Amtrak service as we know it, leaving rural Illinoisans with few viable public transportation options,” wrote the Governor in closing.