- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The agency that oversees the Illinois State Museum and the governor’s office have reached an agreement to reopen the facility and its satellite locations by charging admission and closing two branches, the state announced Monday.

It comes three days after Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner rejected legislation to reopen the museums, but suggested in his veto letter that the facilities could reopen provided they don’t rely solely on state support. To that end, Rauner recommended admission fees and fundraising via donations and private partnerships.

The state Department of Natural Resources, which is in charge of the museums, agreed with the governor’s suggestions. The department also said the locations slated for closing are the Chicago and Rend Lake branches.

It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will go along with the proposed agreement.

Locked in a budget stalemate with the Democrat-controlled Legislature, Rauner closed the Springfield museum and four of its satellite locations on Oct. 1, including the Dickson Mounds archaeological site in Lewistown and art galleries in Chicago.

Rauner said Friday he supports “the good the museum does,” but that it’s not financially sustainable. He noted in his veto letter that the state spends $6 million annually on the museum.

Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who was one of the main sponsors of the bill to reopen the museum, said he was not consulted by the governor’s office or the Department of Natural Resources about the deal.

“Well, I’m glad they came to an agreement with themselves,” he said. He added that he’s still reviewing Rauner’s veto message and hasn’t decided how to proceed, but that he remains committed to reopening the museum.

The Legislature must decide whether to approve Rauner’s suggestions, which he outlined in what’s called an “amendatory veto.” Lawmakers could try to override the governor, which would require the support of three-fifth of both chambers - a threshold that legislators exceeded when they first approved the measure.

IDNR said lawmakers must grant the authority to charge entry fees so the museum can reopen within weeks instead of months. Manar countered that the governor and the department already have that authority and that lawmakers have suggested admission fees multiple times. Department spokesman Chris Young said having the lawmakers approve the fees would avoid time-consuming regulatory proceedings.

Guerry Suggs, the chairman of the museum’s board of directors, said it would be “virtually impossible” for the facilities to generate $6 million to become self-supporting overnight. But he said he realizes they’re only being asked to begin the process.

“They’re just asking us to give it a whirl and I have no objection to that whatsoever,” he said.


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