Intelligence Report: What will Gov. Quinn cut?

February 21, 2012 6:32:11 PM PST
Gov. Pat Quinn will present his state budget Wednesday in Springfield. As reporters gathered for a briefing from the governor's office on what is in the proposed state budget, the I-Team has learned that Quinn plans to announce that he wants to close 14 state facilities, most of them within the Department of Corrections. Those closures will save no more than $60 million in a state that is many billions of dollars in the red.

It was just a few weeks ago that Quinn delivered his State of the State speech at the Capitol, where on Wednesday he will make his budget presentation, neither of which will be remembered for their optimism.

To be closed under the governor's budget:

  • Two prisons - the Tamms super maximum security prison and the Dwight maximum security facility.
  • Six Department of Human Services adult transition centers, including two in Chicago and one in Aurora. The others are the Peoria, Decatur facilities and the Southern Illinois Adult Transitional Center.
  • Four state mental hospitals including the suburban Tinley Park Mental Health Center. The other three are in Jacksonville, Rockford and Centralia. Some of these were part of an earlier closure decision.
  • State youth centers: The Joliet Juvenile Justice Center and the Murphysboro Juvenile Justice Center.

The cost savings from closing prisons and other state facilities will represent but a fraction of what Illinois currently owes.

Quinn will also ask for pension reforms and $2 billion in Medicaid spending cuts but even those will not pull Illinois from its hole.

There is little optimism from a bipartisan state panel that Tuesday handed over a report on the future.

The 2013 state forecast is for little economic improvement; $8.5 billion dollars in unpaid bills to continue placing massive pressure on state government; revenue growth will be consumed by rising pension costs that will see state pension contributions increase by $1 billion.

"Number one, I didn't create all this, I inherited it, and our job is to eliminate it and to reform everything and repair it - that's my job. You know, I assumed office after one governor in jail and the other one going to jail, but we're going to have to reform the system. I'm going to outline how to do it," said Quinn. "We have a pension working group that is working on it and we'll have to get it done this year. It's a tall mountain but I'm prepared to lead the journey up that mountain and we're going to accomplish our goal."

Even before the budget speech takes place, there are complaints, including some from criminal justice advocates who say that closing two major prisons will create dangerous overcrowding in the other penitentiaries that were overcrowded to begin with.

All of this comes against the backdrop of a projection from the Chicago Civic Federation that said that over the next 5 years, Illinois' backlog of unpaid bills could rise to $35 billion in the red.