Emily Chappell’s summer wouldn’t be the same if she couldn’t show her horses in the Winnebago County Fair. The horse show is a tradition for the 16-year-old 4-H’er, one she fears might die with Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s decision to withhold money from the University of Illinois Extension Service, which provides money to 4-H clubs and other agriculture-related programs.
Emily Chappell’s summer wouldn’t be the same if she couldn’t show her horses in the Winnebago County Fair.
The horse show is a tradition for the 16-year-old 4-H’er, one she fears might die with Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s decision to withhold money from the University of Illinois Extension Service, which provides money to 4-H clubs and other agriculture-related programs. Without that money, Chappell said, she and other 4-H Club members couldn’t participate in their premiere event.
“I’d be heartbroken if there was no fair,” Chappell told Comptroller Dan Hynes during a meeting with Extension officials and reporters Tuesday. “It means a lot to me. If things were to get cut, I don’t know what I would do.”
Hynes reiterated criticisms of Blagojevich’s decision to revoke the $18 million in budget allocations, saying the 4-H Club participation in the county fair is not the only thing in jeopardy. Extension officials echoed his sentiment and told him the Winnebago County Extension office stands to lose about $125,000 in state funds, half of its budget. The other half is raised through fundraising efforts. That could mean staffing cuts or the elimination of some popular programs the office sponsors, such as master gardeners and youth programs.
The Winnebago County Extension office is staffed by six employees and 400 volunteers. Every county in Illinois has an Extension office through the University of Illinois, providing low-cost education on topics such as food and nutrition, entrepreneurship, and gardening.
Blagojevich blames cuts in Extension and other programs on a $750 million state budget deficit that he says can be closed if lawmakers pass a bill to allow him to transfer $530 million from special-purpose funds to help balance the budget. The Senate has already approved the plan, but the House has yet to vote.
“We are trying to find a way to fund the $750 million budget gap as quickly as possible,” said Katie Ridgway, a spokeswoman for the governor’s Office of Management and budget. “We think we have a really good solution.”
Hynes called the cuts “shortsighted and hurtful,” and a political tactic directed at Blagojevich’s opponents.
“These cuts are going to have devastating effects,” said Sara Dady, who sits on the volunteer advisory council for the Winnebago County Extension Service. “The Extension Service deserves to have the funds it was promised. It needs them to function.”
Sadie Gurman can be reached at (815) 987-1389 or at email@example.com.