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Senate hearing finds proposed cuts would devastate Southern Illinois economy

siu-approp-4815The Illinois State Senate held a joint Appropriations I and II Committee Hearing to collect testimony about the impact the governor’s proposed budget cuts would have on Southern Illinois’ economy. Representatives from Southern Illinois University, local health care organizations, and the cities of Marion and Carbondale attended to speak about the drastic cuts they will be forced to make if the proposed budget plan is enacted.

“These cuts will result in mass layoffs at some of the largest job providers in our area. To propose cutting first responders like policemen and firemen, along with a large number of university employees, is unacceptable. We need a state budget that supports Southern Illinois, not one that devastates it,” said State Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton).

Under the current proposal, area hospitals like Harrisburg Medical Center could be forced to close and lay off all 449 full-time equivalent employees, which generate 1,008 jobs in the local economy and have a total economic impact of $100 million per year. Other local hospitals may also be forced to close, leaving area residents in “health care deserts”, nearly 30 miles from the nearest hospital.

Southern Illinois would also face a 31.5 percent state funding cut ($65.5 million,), while local governments would face a 50 percent state funding cut. This would result in a loss of $1.6 million for the city of Marion and $2.46 million for the city of Carbondale.

 “This gave us the opportunity to tell the SIU story and highlight our positive economic impact on the region. A 31.5 percent budget cut to the university would translate into fewer tax dollars for the state and our local communities and hurt regional businesses,” said Southern Illinois President, Randy Dunn.

The Senate will continue to hold hearings around the state regarding the governor’s budget proposal over the upcoming weeks.

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