from Illinois Policy Institute
The State Fair in Springfield is always a fun time. But, during a budget crisis, is it prudent for the government to spend taxpayer money on popcorn and instant photos?
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had a strong presence at this year's fair, providing popcorn, mini-frisbees, and photos on-demand to passersby.
The Illinois Policy Institute team visited the fair in August and got this sharp picture taken at the DCFS tent after spending many hours in the sun.
According to a FOIA request to DCFS, taxpayers spent $4547.02 on materials for the tent at the fair, including:
- $800 for tent rental
- $325 for popcorn
- $1,065 for tables, chairs and carpeting
- $930 for car rental
- $663.72 for ink and paper
DCFS also tells me they printed 2300 pictures like ours at the State Fair this year, and have used the equipment at other functions. The printers and laptops were from the department's inventory.
No word on the cost of mini-frisbees.
Yes, these are little things, but they add up. To be fair, other state departments had booths as well, some much elaborate than DCFS's. (The Secretary of State had, I recall, 3 or 4 tents at the fair!)
Perhaps DCFS's presence at the State Fair is justified, but perhaps not. Either way, there are definitely some frills here that we could certainly do without.
And then there's the question of whether the State Fair itself is justified. Our CEO John Tillman remarked in a recent interview on Fox Chicago that the State Fair has lost $43 million since 1993. Obviously, the fair isn't attracting as many people as it once did, and it may be time to consider alternatives. Perhaps the fair could be held once every couple years instead of annually. Once every 5 years?
The governor said earlier this year he and his staff had conducted a comprehensive review of the budget, and he couldn't possibly cut spending any more without drastically reducing the level of social services. That was why he asked Illinoisans to pay more of their money into state coffers by raising the income tax. He was denied, but he and other politicians in Springfield are getting ready to ask you again.
If you'd prefer to have a bit more cash to buy your own popcorn and photo printer, let them know.