Thursday, September 08, 2011

Quinn: "Something has to give"

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn said his hands are tied by the budget approved by lawmakers as he announced a plan today to close seven state facilities and projected future cuts he says are needed to keep the state’s “core services” afloat.

“It’s time for a rendezvous with reality,” Quinn said in comments directed at lawmakers today. “If you vote for something in the spring, don’t run away from it in the fall.” The governor said legislators approved a budget that would cause some state agencies to run out of money before the end of the year. He says his plan to close state facilities would result in more than 1,900 layoffs and about $54.8 million in savings. “Something has to give, and what has to give is we have to close down some of those facilities,” Quinn said today at a Chicago news conference.

The facilities Quinn wants to close are:
  • Tinley Park Mental Health Center. The facility has a capacity of 75, a staff of 195 and an annual operating budget of about $20.1 million.
  • Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford. The facility has a capacity of 76, a staff of 150 and an annual operating budget of about $13.6 million.
  • Chester Mental Health Center. The facility has a capacity of 243, a staff of 464 and an annual operating budget of approximately $34.7 million.
  • Jacksonville Developmental Center. The facility has 196 residents, a staff of 420 and an annual operating budget of about $27.9 million
  • Jack Mabley Developmental Center in Dixon. The facility has 91 residents, a staff of 163 and an annual operating budget of about $10.7 million.
  • Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln. The facility has a population of 1,980, a staff of 357 and an annual operating budget of approximately $30.5 million.
  • Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro. The facility has a population of 59, a staff of 101 and an annual operating budget of about $8.6 million.
Additional layoffs in the Illinois Department of Human Rights, the Illinois Commerce Commission the attorney general’s office and the Civil Service Commission would bring the total number to 1,938. Some money and staff will presumably be shifted as patients and prisoners are moved to other facilities. Quinn did not outline any specifics on how the closures would actually take place, saying only that facilities would not be closed until around January. “This is not an overnight process. There’s a legal process, an orderly process, that allows us to present what we intend to do.”

Quinn’s administration has submitted its intent to close the facilities to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA). The group will weigh the plan and submit recommendations. COGFA member Sen. Dave Syverson, a Rockford Republican, said the commission should hold hearings throughout the state so the public — especially in the areas of the proposed closures — can provide input. He questioned why Quinn did not go through the process of public hearings before making today’s announcement. “If the governor was serous about wanting to do this, he should want public buy-in and make the case to the public ahead of time,” he said.

Singer Mental Health Center was in Syverson's district until the recent legislative remap. He said his community, which consistently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, would feel the loss of more than 100 jobs. He added that closing Singer would put a burden on local law enforcement and hospitals. Syverson said if Quinn makes a strong case that the closure of any facility is a financially sound decision, he would support it. “I am certainly open to that, and I’m certainly willing to take that tough vote. I think that many people on COGFA are willing to take that vote.”

The layoffs of state workers would come on the heels of Quinn’s refusal to give out pay raises included in union contracts. A federal court today tossed out a challenge to Quinn’s move, which effected about 30,000 workers and would save the state an estimated $76 million. The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees plans an appeal. Unions officials say the plan to close facilities is unnecessary. “The governor is apparently concerned that there is not sufficient appropriations authority to maintain services at their current level until the fiscal year ends next June. We agree that a supplemental appropriation is needed. But there is certainly not a funding crisis at this point in time. There is merely a crisis of will,” Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, said in a written statement.

Quinn said the skipped raises and layoffs are parts one and two of a three-part plan to make up what he says is a $313.5 million budget shortfall. After both actions, Quinn says about $182.8 million will still be needed to keep basic state services running through the end of the fiscal year. He says the third part of the plan is dependent on what actions the legislature takes during veto session, scheduled in October. Quinn urged lawmakers to approve his budget vetoes to free up funds to spend elsewhere. “So we have a little extra flexibility within the spending plan.”

Quinn may find support from Senate Democrats, who launched a failed attempt to push for more funding in the closing days of the spring session. "The senate president already stated his intent to revisit the shortcomings of the budget that was passed this spring. In days and weeks ahead, we will study the governor's plans to determine what legislative action may be needed,” Rikeesha Phelon, a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton said in a written statement.

Quinn said while he wants to work with lawmakers to try and find a different outcome, he cannot count on them tweaking the budget in a way that would allow him to avoid closing facilities. He said he has to get the ball rolling on closures to ensure that they can come in time to save money during the current fiscal year. “I can’t be waiting for members of the General Assembly to come to a different conclusion. We’ve got to act now because it’s going to take several months.”

He added, “Nobody’s laid off tomorrow. No facilities are closed tomorrow. … It’s painful, but necessary for the good of the people.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it's laughable that the GOV thinks that the IDOC is just going to shuffle around 2000PLUS inmates to other facilities that are also busting at the seams!
Sure Illinois is in dire straights and has been for several years now. It's not Quinns fault but he's not making matters any better either by using BLAGO tactics.
The sad thing is from this point on I'm not sure if the Unions will be willing to work with the GOV being his word isn't worth much now.

Using State workers who are actually performing vital state services as pawns in his Game is terrible.