The state where Barack Obama began his political career is practically bankrupt. Yet the state has still found a way to spend $117,000 to fly endangered prairie chicken birds from Kansas into the Land of Lincoln.
The state has paid the $117,000 for 16 separate flights to ship prairie chickens in from Kansas a Watchdog report finds. The federal government is chipping in an additional $337,000 for the chicken resettlement program for a total cost of $455,000 tax dollars.
“So far this year,” the report says, “the state has relocated 50 cocks and 41 hens. That puts the cost of the program at $1,166 per bird.”
A state lawmaker from Forsyth, Illinois is calling the program “bizarre” because these birds are being flown in a few at a time using the state’s own air fleet. “Using Air Illinois to fly prairie chickens from Kansas…it’s too bizarre to make it up,” he said.
But the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is defending the program. IDNR spokesman Chris Young said that the intention is to bolster Illinois’ wild prairie chicken population.
“It’s sort of a signature bird of the tall grass prairie,” Young said. He went on to describe the bird’s call and added, “It’s that sort of sound that you hear on a spring morning in prairies, which is something that most people have never heard because the birds are so rare now.”
The IDNR also hastened to point out that much of the money is coming in a grant from the federal government–still tax dollars, of course.
Rep. Bill Mitchell said, “This is an egregious abuse of tax dollars. I don’t care if the money is coming from a grant or not. It doesn’t seem like a smart way to do business.”
The editorial page of the Jacksonville Journal Courier said that this outrageous program is yet another example of how out of touch Illinois government is.
The paper insisted that the program “is another example of an idea not being thoroughly thought out. It’s another question mark about whether the people entrusted with spending the money made from the Average Joe and Jane Illinoisan can be counted on to exercise the best judgment and wisest use of that money.”
Meanwhile, state Democrats are urging voters to approve an income tax hike of five percent saying that government has been starved of tax dollars.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com