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Ryan Michalesko, For The Southern 

Marion's Mckenzie Orange (33) and Massac County's Lauren Coakley (34) battle for a loose ball during a matchup between the Marion Wildcats and the Massac County Lady Patriots on Monday in Carterville. (Ryan Michalesko, For The Southern)

Trump's budget balloons deficits, cuts social safety net

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump unveiled a $4.4 trillion budget plan Monday that envisions steep cuts to America's social safety net but mounting spending on the military, formally retreating from last year's promises to balance the federal budget.

The president's spending outline for the first time acknowledges that the Republican tax overhaul passed last year would add billions to the deficit and not "pay for itself" as Trump and his Republican allies asserted. If enacted as proposed, although no presidential budget ever is, the plan would establish an era of $1 trillion-plus yearly deficits.

The open embrace of red ink is a remarkable public reversal for Trump and his party, which spent years objecting to President Barack Obama's increased spending during the depths of the Great Recession. Rhetoric aside, however, Trump's pattern is in line with past Republican presidents who have overseen spikes in deficits as they simultaneously increased military spending and cut taxes.

"We're going to have the strongest military we've ever had, by far," Trump said in an Oval Office appearance Monday. "In this budget we took care of the military like it's never been taken care of before."

Trump's budget revived his calls for big cuts to domestic programs that benefit the poor and middle class, such as food stamps, housing subsidies and student loans. Retirement benefits would remain mostly untouched by Trump's plan, as he has pledged, although Medicare providers would absorb about $500 billion in cuts — a nearly 6 percent reduction. Some beneficiaries in Social Security's disability program would have to re-enter the workforce under proposed changes to eligibility rules.

While all presidents' budgets essentially are dead on arrival — Congress writes and enacts its own spending legislation — Trump's plan was dead before it landed. It came just three days after the president signed a bipartisan agreement that set broad parameters for spending over the next two years. That deal, which includes large increases for domestic programs, rendered Monday's Trump plan for 10-year, $1.7 trillion cuts to domestic agencies, such as the departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development even more unrealistic.

Trump also is proposing work requirements for several federal programs, including housing subsidies, food stamps and Medicaid. Such ideas have backing from powerful figures in Congress including Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who promises action on a "workforce development" agenda this year.

There was immediate opposition from Democrats.

"The Trump budget proposal makes clear his desire to enact massive cuts to health care, anti-poverty programs and investments in economic growth to blunt the deficit-exploding impact of his tax cuts for millionaires and corporations," said Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

Some Republicans, on the other hand, said spending was much too high.

"This budget continues too much of Washington's wasteful spending — it does not balance in ten years, and it creates a deficit of over a trillion dollars next year," said Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. "We cannot steal from America's future to pay for spending today.

Trump's plan aims at other familiar targets. It would eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The administration wants NASA out of the International Space Station by 2025 and private businesses running the place instead.

But the domestic cuts would be far from enough to make up for the plummeting tax revenue projected in the budget.

Trump's plan sees a 2019 deficit of $984 billion, although White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney admits $1.2 trillion is more plausible after last week's congressional budget pact and $90 billion worth of disaster aid is tacked on. That would be more than double the 2019 deficit the administration promised last year.

All told, the new budget sees accumulating deficits of $7.2 trillion over the coming decade; Trump's plan last year projected a 10-year shortfall of $3.2 trillion. And that's assuming Trump's rosy economic predictions come true and Congress follows through — in an election year — with politically toxic cuts to social programs, farm subsidies and Medicare providers.

Last year Trump's budget promised such ideas could generate a small budget surplus by 2027; now, his best-case scenario is for a $450 billion deficit that year, more than $300 billion of which can be traced to his December tax cut.

In stark numbers, the budget rewrites the administration's talking points for last year's tax plan, which administration figures, such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, promised would more than pay for itself.

"Not only will this tax plan pay for itself, but it will pay down debt," Mnuchin declared in September.

Instead, Trump's budget projects that tax revenues will plummet by $3.7 trillion over the 2018-27 decade relative to last year's "baseline" estimates.

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Feather Hills Vineyard and Winery to open Saturday in place of former Orlandini Vineyard

MAKANDA — Meet the newest Shawnee Wine Trail Association members, the owners of Feather Hills Vineyard and Winery: Randall and Renee Feather, their white Victorian bulldog, Chaucer, and two gray-and-black miniature schnauzers, Sam and Sally.

Randall and Renee Feather have been the owners of Orlandini Vineyard since June 5, but waited to re-brand the vineyard and winery until they could have some of their own product on the shelves.

Before making the move to Southern Illinois, the couple lived about three hours south in Memphis. Their professions as physicians brought them to Union County. After several searches for homes, they learned of the listing for the home by the winery, as they were yearning for something out in the country more so than city life.

Randall Feather said he has joked in the past that he would “own a vineyard” someday because of his hobby as an amateur winemaker. He said it wasn’t their intention to purchase the winery when searching, but the details sort of came together, and they pulled the trigger.

After splitting their purchase of the winery and home into two separate purchases, they had to obtain a retail license just to stay open. Randall Feather said the license allowed them to open the tasting room and sell wine, but they couldn't sell anything new.

He said the winery could sell anything that was already bottled and labeled prior to opening, but couldn't make anything new because they didn’t own a winemaker’s license.

“That allowed us to stay open,” he said.

He said the winery bottled five wines just this past Friday, and the Feathers are hoping to have at total of 10 wines by the summer. Favorites such as the Saluki White and Saluki Red will still be available, as well as a white named after Chaucer. Local beers will also continue to be for sale in the tasting room.

When they purchased the business, the Feathers bought the Orlandini name as well, but opened it with a different LLC, so it could operate under multiple names. Randall Feather said in order to continue selling the Orlandini wine, it had to be affiliated with the name in some way.

As for new changes to the winery, Renee Feather said there will be more seating and an addition of another deck on the tasting room. Music will continue and she has a desire to host more events. The couple is planning to open again on Saturday for a soft opening.

Dustin Duncan / DUSTIN DUNCAN, The Southern  

Pictured are a few of Feather Hills Vineyard and Winery's new wine bottles and glasses. The vineyard — formerly known as Orlandini — is owned by Randall and Renee Feather. The couple is planning a soft reopening Saturday. 

Renee Feather said there was an agreement with the Shawnee Wine Trail to allow them to close for one month in order to renovate their tasting room. She said being on the trail has been great, because during the transition process, members have been out to taste their new wines and make suggestions.

“It’s a lifestyle,” Randall Feather said. “Think of the people we wouldn’t have met. The members of the wine trail is like a whole other world. It’s a different community. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of it.”

Randall will be the winemaker. Renee will manage the tasting room, coordinate all the events, and manage the landscaping projects.

She said the trail is at an interesting point in which the people who were the pioneers are starting to step back and let others run the show.

“We are part of a new generation of the Southern Illinois Wine Trail,” Renee Feather said.

Randall Feather, who is originally from Wayne City, about 18 miles east of Mount Vernon, said he’s ready to live up to the expectations of the region.

“There is a lot of pressure as far of being a great grower and wine maker to make world-class wine that people from all over can enjoy and say this is good wine,” he said.

He mentioned there are good grapes growing around the area, and said a bit more education may serve the population well, including those tourists coming from outside the region to taste Southern Illinois wine.

“I think a lot of it is just lack of education and need to have their eyes opened by tasting these places and the varieties that they might not have heard of,” he said. “If you have an open mind and want to try them out, there are some good wines out here.”

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Progress again stalls in effort to bring grocery store to Cairo

CAIRO — Progress again appears to be stalled in Cairo’s attempt to bring fresh groceries to town.

The old NAPA Auto Parts building on the city’s northern end looks much like it did when Sterling Moody signed the lease last year, save a tattered “Coming Soon” sign for his yet-to-be-realized Harvest Market grocery store.

Moody signed a one-year lease for the space in April and has since struggled to get funding for the store, which he hoped would provide healthy, fresh options for Cairo’s residents who have been without a grocery store since 2015 when the Wonder Market closed. In fact, Moody made a splash in the first half of 2017 when he cooked out in front of the proposed Harvest Market location and met the locals.

When asked Monday about the store’s progress, Moody abruptly said “Cairo is doing their store their self … They are going their own route,” before hanging up the phone.

Moody said to ask Mayor Tyrone Coleman about the potential of a grocery store opening in the city.

Coleman was honest — the city is in much the same place as it has been for the last two years. Coleman said the city has been talking regularly with interested developers — be they for housing or for food — but he said you can’t fill your belly on talk.

The city needs action, and Coleman said he needs more than words to get his hopes up.

“I’m at the point now where I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said, adding that he believes he will before too long.

Coleman said said finances have been a concern for the Harvest Market project since the beginning — he said Moody and his partners have not yet made a lease payment this year and missed at least one payment last year.

The Southern reported in June that Moody had personal financial struggles, as well as struggles with the Missouri Office of Secretary of State regarding his attempts to fund another Harvest Market in East St. Louis. Documents reviewed by the paper show Moody signed a consent order Sept. 27, 2016, agreeing to repay $62,500 in restitution to an unnamed Missouri resident.

Coleman said that he was in talks with other grocery providers, and one of them is particularly interested in the NAPA building. He said he hopes to know soon how serious Moody is about a recent commitment he made to not stand in the way of progress in Cairo, even if it didn’t involve him as the developer.

Steven Tarver, with his brother, Shawn Tarver, and associate Marcella Woodson-Ursey, have been working to bring lifeblood back to Cairo and have been especially energized since it was announced April 2017 that the 185 families living in the McBride and Elmwood public housing complexes would have to relocate.

Isaac Smith / ISAAC SMITH, The Southern 

Steven Tarver, co-founder of Cairo’s Men of Power, Women of Strength poses for a portrait June 30, 2017.

Though the group often bumps heads with the city, Coleman had to give them credit for the list of people they have looking at Cairo as a potential investment site.

Steven Tarver said he and his group have been working to keep the momentum going despite several setbacks from both Moody and the city — they have been trying make room for tangible development of the NAPA site in particular. Tarver said it was too soon to name names, but, like Coleman, he said there is another party interested in the site. He said Men of Power Women of Strength, a Cairo-based community volunteer group, is trying to arrange a multi-use grocery store/gas station facility for Cairo.

Steven Tarver also said that it’s his hope to write in to a potential contract that positions of authority within a franchise would be given to a set number of locals, making it less likely that the business would ever leave Cairo.

It’s an uphill battle. Still, Coleman said he’s not married to one company or developer over the other — he said he could not “care less” who it is so long as Cairo gets what it needs.

Coleman said seeing Cairo reach this place of being almost barren of basic services — a gas station and grocery store specifically — is something he never thought he’d see.

“I never thought that Cairo would become a food desert,” he said.

Coleman said he thinks there will be progress made, but it may take longer than some people think.

“We are going to get the grocery store and we are going to get the businesses coming back into the area. I have no doubt about that,” he said. “We didn’t get to this place overnight and we are not going to come out of it overnight.”

Isaac Smith / ISAAC SMITH, The Southern 

Sterling Moody poses for a portrait Friday in the Harvest Market East St. Louis location that is currently under construction. Moody is also working to bring a Harvest Market to Cairo.

Group of black SIUC alumni, citizens to host meeting on declining African-American enrollment

CARBONDALE — An upcoming town hall meeting coordinated by African-American Southern Illinois University Carbondale alumni will focus on how to address declining enrollment of minority students at the university.

According to a flyer put out by the group, Concerned Black Alumni and Citizens for SIU-C, the event will give attendees a chance to share ideas on how to increase African-American enrollment and to encourage the university to hire more minority faculty and administrators.

The meeting will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday at the Eurma C. Hayes Center, 441 E. Willow St. in Carbondale.

“We understand that SIU-C is experiencing hardship; nevertheless, we still want to ensure that African American and other minority programs survive this storm. This can only be done if we come together and strategize how we can recruit more African American students to attend SIU-C,” the flyer states.

The group will also focus on the Financial Sustainability Plan approved by the SIU Board of Trustees in July 2017 and on the ongoing academic reorganization.

The Rev. Charles Koen, a prominent Southern Illinois civil rights activist and a member of the group, said he and other alumni began meeting several months ago to discuss the problems facing SIUC.

“We’re mobilizing around the state and Missouri as well as certain parts of Kentucky … to motivate more students to come to SIU,” Koen said.

Ra Joy, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy’s running mate, will attend the event, a campaign spokeswoman confirmed.

“There will be speakers from various parts of the state who will be coming, and they will be speaking, basically, about the need to mobilize in their communities, to encourage young people to come to SIUC,” Koen said.

Koen said discussion won’t be restricted to issues related to African-Americans and that all are welcome.

“The issue is broader than any ethnic group. It’s about maintaining the anchor of Southern Illinois’ economic and political, educational base,” Koen said.

Overall student enrollment has decreased about 19 percent between fall 2013 and fall 2017, while African-American enrollment dropped about 30 percent, according to university data.