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Quinn asks feds for more time

January 27, 2009 at 06:07 AM


SPRINGFIELD — Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn has formally asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give Illinois more time to put federally restricted funds back in their proper place.

The state faces the loss of $16 million in federal funds for fish and wildlife projects if it does not formally restore $9.25 million “swept” from six funds that receive money from hunting and fishing licenses and related fees.

In a letter dated Jan. 22, Quinn asked Thomas O’Melius, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to give the state 90 days more “to finalize a remedy” to the diversion of wildlife funds.

“Given the unfortunate and unprecedented situation regarding the impeachment of our current governor and the timing of the impeachment proceedings, it is unlikely that the appropriations bill will be signed before the February 2 deadline,” Quinn wrote.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s acting director, Rowan Gould, could declare Illinois ineligible for the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Future federal funding beyond the $16 million for this fiscal year also could be at risk.

States have to agree not to spend license money on purposes other than fish and wildlife restoration or risk losing a share of a federal excise tax on sporting goods, like ammunition and fishing equipment.

The $9.25 million originally was part of $211 million lawmakers voted to take from a long list of special state funds.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed $55 million from the sweeps bill, including the $9.25 million in question. However, the legislature had to vote to put the funds back, and the Fish and Wildlife Service gave the state 45 days to do so. That period ends Feb. 2.

A supplemental appropriations bill has been passed by both houses, but has not been sent to the governor yet. Leaders of conservation groups have expressed concern that the distraction of Blagojevich’s Senate impeachment trial could mean the bill won’t become law in time to stop the Fish and Wildlife Service from penalizing Illinois.

Jason Holm, spokesman with the Fish and Wildlife Service, says significant amounts accumulate in funds that are repositories for hunting and fishing license dollars, creating “tempting targets” for government officials looking for cash to pay the state’s bills.

John Christian, assistant regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Fort Snelling, Minn., said both the Governor’s and Lt. Governor’s offices have “worked diligently” to find a solution, but “right now there’s no fix.”

Christian said the Fish and Wildlife Service is focused on whether or not the state will be able to come up with a remedy by Feb. 2.

“I’ve seen the will to do this, but it hasn’t reached the finish line so to speak,” he said. “And we feel a responsibility to the sportsmen and women of Illinois to proceed with our action with the strong hope and desire that they will make corrective action.

“We believe these sanctions are appropriate and necessary to protect those funds, and we are going to carry out our responsibility.”

The Feb. 2 deadline does not mean that Illinois automatically will lose its federal wildlife funds, but the date is “one step closer to a diversion finding, and one step closer to losing its money.”

The Washington office will look at the circumstances at that time.

Christian warned that the swept money—with interest—needs to be returned quickly.

“The longer it isn’t resolved the more money is owned back to the fish and wildlife account,” he said.

Marc Miller, policy advisor to Quinn, said a letter would have been sent whether the Governor was facing impeachment or not. Quinn will become governor if Blagojevich is removed from office.

“The lieutenant governor’s work on conservation is a longstanding commitment and we felt it necessary to request an extension given the unique circumstance,” Miller said.

Quinn chairs the Illinois River Coordinating Council.

“I learned last week that California also is a concern (to the Fish and Wildlife Service), because they are planning to do the same thing,” said Miller. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is likely to take a very strong stance to head off any other state’s thinking that they can use those funds for any other purposes.”

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This one is simple. A letter to all state legislative bodies and governors from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “IF YOU REMOVE FEDERAL DEDICATED FUNDS FROM THEIR REPOSITORY YOU WILL LOOSE ALL FEDERAL FUNDING WETHER YOU SPEND IT OR NOT” This is an age old problem and worry for state wildlefe agencies nationwide. Let’s just end the problem now.
Legislatures and governors at times act like 5 year olds. They just can’t seem to hear “NO” It is time for some irreversible “capital punishment.”
On this occasoon our legislatures were as guilty as anyone AND THEY WERE WARNED BEFORE HAND. On this issue and maybe the only time, our Governor saved the situation from being much worse. If he had not vetoed the use of those funds it is very possible they would have been redistributed and the State would have been over the proverbial “barrel”
Before you jump, I realize the issue of reprisals for using dedicated funds for other than what they were dedicated for will take more that just a letter. IT’S JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF “BIG PROBLEMS” THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED FOR NOW AND FOR THE FUTURE.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/27 at 07:38 AM

Brad is right on the money.

Lt. Governor Quinn and Marc Miller hit a home run. Their efforts in Washington could literally save Illinois millions of federal match dollars that can be used for the advancement of fish and wildlife. It is very important to establish and maintain a good relationship and reputation with the the USFWS.

I am glad to see Lt Governor Quinn and Marc Miller had the instincts to make the right moves. Smart play!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/27 at 08:30 AM

Great job Lt. Gov. Quinn and Marc Miller !!
Marc Miller introduced himself to me & Kevin Chapman, last year at the Legislature Sportsmen Caucus. We were there representing the IL Bowhunters Society. He told us then, that himself & Lt Governor Quinn, were very upset at the way thing were being handle with the IDNR & the mismanagement there. Marc introduced us to Lt. Gov. Quinn & he told us that Marc is a hunter & keeps him informed on a lot of the aspects of the hunting & outdoors world. They both told us they would do all they could to help out the hunting & outdoors community.
It looks like they are both doing exactly what they told us. I sure hope these two get to play a much bigger role in helping to protect our sport, in the very near future !

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/27 at 10:20 AM

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. I am finding it very heartening that Lt. Gov Quinn is on top of this and other problems with the DNR. The man has to really have a full plate with all the other things that are going on, yet prioritizes the DNR fund misappropriation at the top of his things to do list. I called his office and expressed my appreciation- I think the nice lady who took my call was suprised smile she said they do not get a lot of pats on the back- usually just complaints.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/28 at 08:14 AM

Bad news for us…..

“As it stands now, even with the pleading from Quinn, USFWS officials are unwilling to honor his request for the time being.”

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/28 at 03:15 PM

Sanders?????Were u once a Cpo?????

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/28 at 04:56 PM

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