State Museum Could Re-Open; Manar Not Sure

Feb 9, 2016

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said it has reached an agreement with the governor's office to reopen the state museum by charging admission and closing three branches to save money. 

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, at the Illinois State Museum and discussing re-opening the museum. Michael Wiant, interim director of the Illinois State Museum stands behind him.

The announcement Monday came three days after Gov. Bruce Rauner rejected legislation to reopen the museum. Rauner used his veto power to tell lawmakers the museum and its satellite locations can re-open only if it gets its own funding through admission fees and donations.  

Wayne Rosenthal, director of IDNR, said lawmakers must grant the authority to charge entry fees. The department says the locations slated for closing are the Chicago, Rend Lake and Lockport branches. Rosenthal said the state legislature needed to pass legislation that would add the admissions fee into law. 

Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said charging a $5 admission fee to visitors was reasonable compared with other museums in Illinois and in other states. "I think that the community really spoke loudly in that this is a gem for our community and now, moving forward, we have a real opportunity for the community to join us in our efforts to make this museum a better place than it has been in the past, in all honesty," he said. "I look forward to that."  

Rauner closed the museum locations in October because the state doesn't have a budget. The state spends $6 million annually on the Springfield museum and its four satellite sites.  

Senator Andy Manar,  a Democrat from Bunker Hill, sponsored the original bill and says the governor could have started charging a fee for visitors months ago and it doesn't require approval of state legislators.  Although he says he wasn't invited to the announcement by the Department of Natural Resources, Manar still wants to find a way to re-open the museum.

"I remain committed to trying to find a path forward to solve the problem," he said.

Manar says it's too early to say whether he will try to override the veto. It would take a three-fifths majority in both chambers.