Whether the Illinois State Museum opens back up depends on the General Assembly implementing suggested changes in the governor’s amendatory veto. That’s according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources which says it could take just a couple weeks to reopen the museum and most of the branch locations around the state.
Governor Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto Friday to Senate Bill 317 which would allow for IDNR, the agency that oversees the museum and its branch locations, to charge admission fees and to have the Illinois State Museum Society do more to generate private donations to support the museum operations.
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IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal said the museum will “seek to improve revenue by charging an admission fee and improving fundraising efforts.” Rosenthal also says there would be a provision to either waive or reduce the fee for schoolchildren and senior citizens.
“The museum will not be self supporting,” Rosenthal said, “but with these changes we’ll be able to contribute more to the operations and reduce its dependence on general revenue funds and be more sustainable.”
The plan includes the closure of the Illinois State Museum Gallery at the Thompson Center in Chicago and the Southern Illinois Art and Artisan Center at Rend Lake. With those, consolidation of some operations and possible admission fees, IDNR says the state could save $1 million a year.
Republican State Representative Tim Butler supported Senate Bill 317 in the House, but said there was one issue.
“SB 317 really didn’t have a path forward on reopening the museum,” Butler said. “Today’s action sets that groundwork for reopening the museum, like I said, in a reasonable manner and something that I think will be very good for our community.”
Butler said the governor’s suggested changes are reasonable and will re-energize the state museum society to generate private donations, similar to how other facilities find funding.
“When we look around the area,” Butler said, “we’ve seen the (Abraham Lincoln) Presidential Museum Foundation raised about $42 million in the last 15 years. We’ve seen Kidzeum raise about $6 million for that facility.”
“So I think the will is here in our community to support entities like this,” Butler said.
Meanwhile Butler suggested the museum charge $5 admission for adults, though the official admission fee hasn’t been announced.
Meanwhile quickly approving the governor’s proposed changes will send a clear signal there’s a willingness to find solutions. That’s according to Springfield’s mayor.
Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder supports the proposed changes of charging admission and partnering more with the museum’s society as a way to make the museum more self sufficient. Langfelder said if the Senate acts to confirm the suggestions swiftly, it will provide some certainty in uncertain times.
“It will send a clear signal, not only to the city of Springfield as far as the support for finding resolution,” Langfelder said, “but also for the state of Illinois.”
Multiple messages seeking comment from SB 317 chief sponsor Democratic Senator Andy Manar were not immediately returned.