Jim Bugaren is well aware of the state's ongoing budget woes. But he never realized the financial troubles could affect fishing from a boat.
The Schaumburg resident, a retired railroad employee, bought a 16-foot, 60-horsepower Lund fishing boat in March.
He submitted the necessary paperwork and $52 in fees through a nearby currency exchange. The currency exchange, in turn, sent the documents and a check to the state Department of Natural Resources, which handles boat registrations.
Bugaren received a receipt showing he had applied for a boat registration, which served as a temporary permit while the DNR processed his application. The temporary permit said it would expire in 120 days, or roughly mid-July.
Everything seemed fine until June 19. That's when the DNR returned his application, his uncashed check and a note saying he owed $60 because the fee had increased.
Three days later, Bugaren resubmitted his application with the appropriate payment, hoping to quickly receive his registration.
That didn't happen. In fact, by the time he emailed What's Your Problem? in mid-September, the best explanation he could get from an automated recording was that the DNR was behind, processing applications submitted in the spring.
Bugaren also fishes in a neighbor state.
"My problem is, when on water either in Illinois or Wisconsin, I am technically fishing with an unregistered and untitled boat," he said.
"The best answer I got so far is, 'Oh, everyone knows how slow the Illinois DNR is in any administration work due to budget cuts.' Well maybe in Illinois, but some game warden (in Wisconsin) could easily charge me with fishing with an unregistered and titled boat, ruining my fall vacation."
The Problem Solver contacted Chris McCloud, a spokesman for the Illinois DNR, and asked about Bugaren's situation.
He said Bugaren shouldn't run into any problems.
"I can't speak for Wisconsin, but a copy of the registration forms anyone sends in to us acts as a temporary boat registration recognized as valid until the actual registration arrives," he said in an email. "We are currently four months behind in processing boating registrations and are working on increasing staff to begin to catch up."
When asked what Bugaren should do if he's pulled over while fishing in Wisconsin and has no proof that his boat is registered, McCloud said neighboring states are aware of Illinois' situation.
"I will say we have just hired several additional employees," McCloud said. "That combined with the fact that there are far fewer registrations in the fall and winter months to process … we should start to make significant progress in catching up with our backlog."
The Problem Solver had all but given up hope of getting Bugaren his registration in a timely manner, but a short time after McCloud sent his email, Bugaren received a call from an employee at the DNR.
"They said they found the paperwork," Bugaren said. "They tell me they'll process it by next Friday."
He said he was told his registration should arrive by the second week in October.
Bugaren said he was happy but knows the backlog is not resolved.
"They're blaming budget cuts and people cuts, and you can imagine the stack of papers piling up over there," he said. "It's embarrassing to the state."