11 Ill. parks to close among hundreds of layoffs

Thirteen state historic sites and 11 parks will close, and human services will be affected as the Blagojevich administration said Thursday it will lay off 325 workers.

Thirteen state historic sites and 11 parks will close, and human services will be affected as the Blagojevich administration said Thursday it will lay off 325 workers. The tourist attractions include the reconstructed log cabin of Abraham Lincoln’s father and stepmother near Charleston, set to close Oct. 1, just five months before the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. Four state agencies will cut their work forces this fall because of the $1.4 billion Gov. Rod Blagojevich took out of a state budget he said wasn’t balanced. The cuts include 179 positions at the Department of Children and Family Services, and 73 at the Department of Human Services. Another 127 DCFS workers will keep their jobs but be moved to positions or areas where there are vacancies. The administration had no choice, given the out-of-balance budget and the slowing economy, Blagojevich spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said. She asserted officials are minimizing adverse effects. "These are difficult decisions to make, difficult decisions that we don’t want to make," Quinn said. "That being said, we’ve spent the last two months working with agencies to ensure that they’re going to maintain their core services." Most of those laid off are represented by the state’s largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which said the cuts will hurt children and poor families. "The governor’s actions will put abused and neglected children at greater risk, reduce access to Medicaid and food stamps, and further harm state parks and historic sites," AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer said in a statement. Quinn could not say whether more layoffs are coming. "We’re continuing to work with the agencies on management plans for further savings," she said. DCFS is cutting 179 positions and requiring 127 other workers to move to "higher need" areas where there are vacancies and caseloads are larger, spokesman Kendall Marlowe said. Most of the 73 employees losing their jobs at DHS work with low-income families to get them benefits, spokesman Tom Green said. But layoffs are spread throughout the agency, reducing the impact on services and eliminating the need to close offices, he said. The world will be watching Illinois in February 2009, when Lincoln’s adopted state celebrates the Kentucky-born 16th president’s 200th birthday. But several sites associated with Lincoln will close, including his parents’ last home near Charleston and the Vandalia statehouse, where Lincoln served in the state legislatures before Springfield became the state capital. "It’s going to be devastating to local communities that depend on these sites for tourist revenue," preservation agency spokesman David Blanchette said. The Department of Natural Resources will lay off 39 workers, including three part timers, and close 11 state parks Nov. 1. "The other 300 parks, natural areas, wildlife areas, will remain unaffected," DNR spokesman Chris McCloud said. McCloud said the General Assembly rejected the agency’s proposal last spring for several "modest" user-fee increases that would have reduced the need to cut now. AP ______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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