A protracted budget standoff between political parties in the Illinois state legislature has caused a lot of pain for citizens, civic organizations and even lottery winners. Most recently, it tripped up CVBs, causing them to cut short their campaigns, and even forcing layoffs of staff members. A recent stopgap budget bill, however, has caused some glimpses of hope.
Many CVBs rely heavily on funding from the state for marketing and advertising, and those in Illinois were no exception. As a result of budget cuts, Illinois tourism promotion organizations had to put a halt to long-terms plans for program development.
According to Jonathan Trager writing for the USAE, funding from the Illinois State Office of Tourism totals about $1 million annually each for Schaumburg-based Meet Chicago Northwest and for the Oakbrook-based DuPage CVB. Neither of these bureaus, however, have received money from the state since July.
Dave Parulo, President of Meet Chicago Northwest, which represents eight communities outside of the city, told USAE that state funding accounts for more than 60 percent of his organization’s budget. The organization has had to make cuts in personnel, from 10 full-time employees down to eight, including one part-time employee.
“The hardest part is the uncertainty,” said Parulo. “It makes it very difficult to make any long-term agreement and proceed on programs that are more than a few months down the road.”
The good news for the groups is that a new temporary budget measure, SB 2039, was passed by both chambers of the state legislature, and was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner on Monday, December 7th just minutes before the legislature began its winter break until January 13th. The Governor had previously resisted stopgap measures in the past, saying he wanted a complete spending bill or none at all.
Choose Chicago spokeswoman Meghan Risch said the bureau is optimistic the Senate and Rauner would approve the bill. That group, which is the official destination marketing organization for the City of Chicago, would receive $7.2 million in hotel tax proceeds from the state if the measure were approved. Since the funding was cut off in July, Choose Chicago has had to reduce headcount, close many foreign offices and cancel media buys for its fall advertising campaign.
“I would say my first reaction is I’m cautiously optimistic,” Meet Chicago Northwest’s Dave Parulo told USAE. “I’m excited it’s moving forward because it’s 50 percent of our funding, and it seems to be a bipartisan agreement.”
Parulo said receiving the money would allow the bureau to pursue “solid advertising and marketing campaigns” during the winter period and to have a presence at certain tradeshows in the upcoming months.