Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quinn vetoes money for prisons

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn singed the state budget today, rejecting some of the money lawmakers included to keep state facilities open.

Quinn cut a total of $57 million from the budget that lawmakers approved in May.

Most of the cuts came from money that lawmakers included in the budget to keep state facilities open. “They’re going to be closed. I do believe that we have to see our budget as what our priorities are,” Quinn said in Chicago today. He vetoed $19.4 million for the super-maximum security prison near Tamms and $21.2 million for the women’s prison in Dwight. In addition to the prisons, he plans to close three transition centers meant to help inmates reenter society. The two prisons and the transition centers are scheduled for closure on August 31. He also cut $8.9 million for a youth prison in Joliet and $6.6 million for a youth prison in Murphysboro. The facility in Joliet is slated for closure on November 30, and the Murphysboro facility is scheduled to be closed on August 31.

Quinn said his administration plans to close the Tinley Park Mental Health Center and the Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford. His administration has already begun the process of shutting down the Jacksonville center and the Warren G. Murray Mental Developmental Center in Centralia. Lawmakers gave Quinn the flexibility in the budget to use the money allocated for those centers on a plan to transition residents to new homes if he opted to shut down the institutions. “These are difficult decisions but necessary,” Quinn said of the facility closures.

He voiced displeasure over cuts lawmakers made in the budget for the Department of Children and Family Services. "I’m not happy that the General Assembly cut the budget for the Department of Children and Family Services in my opinion by way, way too much, $50 million. I think that the cuts that I have made, $57 million, in this budget should be considered for reallocation when the General Assembly comes back.” He called on legislators to put some of the money he cut into DCFS. The governor has the power to cut money from the budget with his veto pen but cannot restore spending.

He noted that the budget reduces discretionary spending from last year’s levels. “We still have to maintain our priorities for children, for education, for public safety, for health care, for human services, but we have to do so in a lean and accountable manner,” he said. Quinn said the budget would pay off $1.3 billion of the state’s overdue bills. The total estimated backlog of bills owed by the state is about $8 billion.

 He again called for pension reform. Legislative leaders have decided to take a break from negotiations, which had stalled, but say they plan to start meeting again in a few weeks. “A large amount of the money that’s spent in the budget is devoted to paying for public pensions. This is something that we still have to grapple with to reform. I've had meeting after meeting, and I plan to have even more meetings to get our legislators to understand that we cannot continue on the path we are on with respect to public pensions.”

Quinn said that more budget changes are likely to come as he works with the legislature throughout the 2013 fiscal year, which begins tomorrow. During his time as governor, he has continually described the budget as a work in process. “A budget is not a one-day exercise. It’s 365 days in a fiscal year.”


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