House sponsor expresses optimism Quinn’s museum ‘free-day’ veto can be blocked

SHARE House sponsor expresses optimism Quinn’s museum ‘free-day’ veto can be blocked
SHARE House sponsor expresses optimism Quinn’s museum ‘free-day’ veto can be blocked

SPRINGFIELD-The lead House sponsor of legislation to roll back the number of free days Illinois museums must offer residents expressed confidence Wednesday that state lawmakers would be able to block Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of the measure.

Citing the impact on low-income patrons, Quinn blocked the initiative enabling museums and aquariums to reduce the number of free days they offer from 52 to 26. Museums and aquariums across the state had pushed for the legislation because of faltering revenues and budget cutbacks.

“Most legislators looked at it if we’re allowing 26 days, which is equivalent to four weeks or 16 percent of their income, that’s fair,” said Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford), who was the chief House sponsor of House Bill 1200.

“If they’re required to have 52 free days, it’s definitely a burden on them,” he said.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Sosnowski said Quinn appeared not to understand the financial plight facing some of the state’s iconic museums and aquariums and that he is “optimistic” lawmakers will block the governor’s move.

The Field Museum, for example, faces a $170 million shortfall that has led the institution to cut its research budget for next year by 20 percent, reduce its science staff and merge departments.

The museum’s shaky finances are rooted in a decade-old decision to borrow $90 million for construction projects. But a capital campaign to pay off that debt faltered, resulting in decisions to dip into the museum’s endowment and to embark on budget cutting.

“Most of the museums rallied around this,” Sosnowski said. “We had broad, bipartisan support. For the governor to take the action he did was surprising. It’s almost like there’s a disconnect there, and he doesn’t realize what we’re doing to them. My goal is to help them.

“When you dig into their operations, the veto doesn’t make sense. All you’re doing is hurting them. Museums want to do more outreach into low-income school districts. If they have more flexibility in their budgeting, they can do that,” he said. “But under the current law, it’s inflexible.”

If the House and Senate roll calls from the spring hold, enough votes exist in both legislative chambers to turn back Quinn’s veto. The House vote was 79-36, which is eight votes more than the 71-vote veto-proof majority threshold. The Senate roll call was 40-4; 36 votes are needed to override a veto in the Senate.

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