Apr. 15, 2004 - AOPA has warned Illinois legislative leaders that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's (D-Ill.) budget proposal for fiscal year 2005 could be disastrous for the state's aviation system. The proposal slashes spending in the aeronautics budget by 22% and cuts nearly half of the division's staff positions. And that, AOPA warns, could result in the state not being able to take full advantage of federal airport improvement funds and curtailing of state aviation safety programs.
In a letter to the president of the state senate and the speaker of the state house of representatives, AOPA Vice President of Regional Affairs Roger Cohen warned the dramatic cuts "stand to inhibit the state's safe growth and development of aviation and airports."
Cohen says the aeronautics division suffers disproportionately under the budget proposal. By comparison, Cohen points out, "The Highways Department would experience only a 2% reduction in staffing with minor funding cuts, while Rail receives increased [original emphasis] funding and loses only six staff positions."
Illinois is one of only eight states that are allowed to distribute federal airport improvement funds as part of the FAA's State Block Grant Program, giving the state a more active role in planning its airport system. "Adequate staffing is critical to this effort," wrote Cohen, "and any reduction in staffing could seriously jeopardize the state's ability to obtain FAA grants and the ability for Illinois to receive and leverage federal funds."
Illinois' aeronautics division also oversees an extensive pilot and flight instructor education and safety program, which will be hurt if the funding cuts go through.