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SPRINGFIELD -- On the eve of the summer fair season, 4-H programs throughout the state could be facing another round of potential budget cuts.

Although Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn have not agreed on a budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, proposals floating through the Capitol suggest funding for the University of Illinois Extension, which oversees 4-H and other outreach programs, will be slashed.

One version projects a cut worth $13 million, which could force layoffs and office closings throughout the state.

The latest proposal comes a year after the Cooperative Extension received $7 million less in state funding, resulting in a statewide reorganization that included combining some counties into single operating units.

4-H and other extension programs are just one element of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of state programs likely to be pared from the state budget this year as lawmakers grapple with a backlog of unpaid bills worth $8 billion.

Schools, universities, mental health programs and other human services all face reductions, with the House, for now, looking to cut twice as much as the Senate and the governor balking at a proposed 4 percent cut to education spending.

In a note to 4-H families, Cynthia O'Neill, director for McLean, Livingston and Woodford counties, said all Extension programs, including 4-H and Master Gardener, would be impacted. In addition, she predicted some office locations could close in multicounty districts.

O'Neill said upcoming county 4-H fairs will likely go on as planned this summer because the effects of state budget cuts may not be known until the fairs are under way.

"4-H is a priority for us," O'Neill said.

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