Gov. Bruce Rauner isn't the first chief executive to cut the budget of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, so an announcement that he's planning on laying off workers at the agency did not come as a big surprise.

As part of his strategy to pressure lawmakers into agreeing with his push to weaken labor unions, the governor's office sent out more than 170 layoff notices last week.

Although a court has ruled that the comptroller can pay state employees even though there is no state budget, Rauner aides suggested the cuts are necessary because the budget sent to him by the Democrats who control the General Assembly was unbalanced to the tune of some $4 billion.

It remains unclear how someone can cut a budget if there isn't a budget to cut.

In the case of the Department of Natural Resources layoffs, his administration is sending pink slips to 33 conservation officers effective Sept. 30.

The move will leave many counties without a conservation police officer, including Livingston, Logan, Ford, Piatt and Cumberland.

In IDNR's region five, which takes in most of southern Illinois, 10 counties — including Pulaski and Alexander — will have no conservation police coverage.

And, the layoffs are set to take effect the day before the archery deer season begins.

"Not too smart on their part," said Sean Smoot, chief legal counsel for the Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents the officers.

Of the officers, Smoot said 25 of the 33 officers targeted are military veterans.

What's more, Smoot said much of the work done by the officers is reimbursed by the federal government. Boating safety checks, fishing violations in Lake Michigan and waterfowl-related investigations all qualify for millions of dollars in federal money that offset state costs.

"It's not going to save money," Smoot said.

But it could raise the pressure on lawmakers.

Fair warning

Let's sum up some of the effects of not having a budget.

At social service agencies across the state, workers are being laid off. Services are ending to the poor, young, disabled and elderly.

The state museum is about to close. The World Shooting Recreational Complex in Sparta is on track to be shuttered. And the Illinois Department of Corrections is in the midst of closing a prison work camp in Hardin County.

Against that backdrop, the Illinois State Fair and the Du Quoin State Fair remain unscathed.

Asked last week if he was going to pare back state spending on the fairs amid the carnage elsewhere in state government, Rauner shook his head.

"I've not heard of any impacts," Rauner said. "Right now, the fair is going forward."

Go figure.

Decatur mayor honored

The Illinois State Senate honored former Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy with a resolution and moment of silence on Wednesday.

McElroy, who passed away July 17, served as mayor since 2009.

Among those offering up kind words was state Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who had faced off against McElroy in the 2012 election that saw Manar win his bid for the office.

"Mayor Mike McElroy was a proud, dedicated civil servant who was committed to improving the city of Decatur. Decatur is truly a better place because of his life and work, and his example will live on as a testament to hard work and civic pride," Manar said.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said McElroy gave of himself.

"He did it for his family. He did it for his neighbors. He did it for his business. He did it for his community. He did it for the whole region," Rose said. "Nobody loved Decatur more than Mike McElroy."

Charlie hustle

The doom and gloom of the budget impasse isn't stopping lawmakers from introducing oddball pieces of legislation.

Take state Rep. John Anthony's latest proposal.

The Plainfield Republican wants the House to vote on a resolution urging Major League Baseball to reinstate Pete Rose so Rose can be considered for enshrinement into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wanna bet the proposal goes nowhere.

A look ahead

Don't look for the budget impasse to be over anytime soon. The Senate does not return to action — or inaction — until Aug. 19.

That's also the same day as Governor's Day at the fair.

Look for the Democrats who control the chamber to rain on the governor's picnic.

Follow Kurt Erickson on Twitter @Illinois_Stage


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