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SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois' two state fairs could be on the chopping block as lawmakers return to the Capitol for the final month of the spring legislative session.

Although specifics weren't available Monday, a Senate budget expert said that the late summer fairs in Springfield and Du Quoin will be in the mix when it comes to reducing state spending this year.

"Every line item is on the table," said state Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge. "There is limited money available. Everything is being reviewed for significant reductions."

In 1992, former Gov. Jim Edgar cancelled the first two days of the fair in Springfield to save an estimated $420,000. A concert by Color Me Badd was cancelled. A show by the B-52s was initially shelved, but was put back in the mix after the Beach Boys agreed to restructure their contract.

The Du Quoin State Fair also got cut by three days that year in an attempt to save about $325,000.

It was part of an overall $30 million in reductions made to the budget that year.

This year, Democrats who control state government are looking at overall cuts of $1 billion or more. Republicans want even more reductions, with the savings going toward paying down a massive backlog of bills.

"When you don't have money, you have to make cuts," Kotowski said.

At the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which oversees the fairs, officials had not been given any specific guidelines about reductions.

"I am not aware of anything concrete at this time, but we continue to look at all ways to achieve cuts," Ag Director Tom Jennings said in a statement.

State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said the fair could give Illinoisans an in-state vacation option during a time of higher fuel costs.

"Given the economy, where people are less likely to be able to travel because of the gas prices, you're taking an option away from people to take a little vacation," Bomke said. "It doesn't surprise me that it might be considered. But it can't be that much of a savings."

State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, who represents Du Quoin, said a battle over fair funding wouldn't be a surprise.

"I'm going to fight for it, but I would say it's a possibility," Bost said.

In 1992, cutting two days off the event resulted in little difference in fair revenues because the weather was much better than in 1991, leading to larger crowds.

If the first two days were to be cut, grandstand shows by comedian Jeff Dunham and the band 3 Doors Down would be affected.

Dunham is set to perform on the first Friday of the fair, with 3 Doors Down scheduled for Saturday. 3 Doors Down has a contract for $125,000. The tab for Dunham is $100,000.


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