PI Original Matthew Blake Wednesday February 22nd, 2012, 8:14pm

Quinn's Budget Calls For Mass Closures Of Health Care, Prison Facilities

Gov. Pat Quinn proposed closing 63 state facilities in his annual budget address today to the Illinois General Assembly, which will result in 2,397 layoffs if passed by the legislature.

Gov. Pat Quinn proposed closing 63 state facilities in his annual budget address today to the Illinois General Assembly, which will result in 2,397 layoffs if passed by the legislature.

Most of these job losses will occur at 14 prison and public health facilities, according to documents provided by the governor's office. The biggest layoff numbers are at two developmental disability centers. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia and Jacksonville Developmental Center in Jacksonville will see 913 combined layoffs.

The closings were the most specific cuts laid out in a speech that claimed “our rendezvous with reality has arrived,” but did not itemize many proposed spending reductions.

Progressives criticized Quinn’s rhetorical emphasis on cutting pensions and Medicaid -- and these facilities, while not suggesting a tax increase.

“Quinn said everyone has to be an adult on pensions – well everyone has to be an adult on tax policy,” said Ralph Matire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

Closures and Cuts

Quinn's budget proposal outlined the closures of ten state criminal justice facilities, including a Supermax prison outside of rural Tamms, where prisoners spend 23 hours a day in solitary confinement. Quinn also wants to close the Dwight prison for women, as well as six halfway houses and two juvenile justice centers. All told, closing these Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice Facilities portend 1,112 layoffs.

Quinn wants to close two mental health centers (in Tinley Park and Rockford) -- resulting in 340 layoffs, and the aforementioned two developmental disability centers. The governor called these cuts good news: Patients now can transition from “costly institutions” to “supportive community settings.”

Anders Lindall, spokesman of AFSCME Local 31 -- the state's main public employees union, counters that “families of individuals with profound disabilities have chosen these state centers.”

Also, with the proposed layoffs of hundreds of AFSCME members, Lindall argues that “the governor’s rhetoric about jobs being his top priority rings very hollow.”

Quinn separately mentioned in his speech that they are 2,200 fewer public employees in Illinois than when he took office in January 2009 -- not including the positions he plans to cut.

Smaller facility closings include the elimination of 24 Department of Health and Human Services local offices, 16 police telecommunication centers, four state garages, three Department of Children and Family Support Service offices, one state police forensic lab, and one agriculture department lab.

According to the governor's office, $88.9 million would be saved by the 63 facility closings. Quinn has proposed a $33.8 biilion budget.

Quinn also wants to save money by a nine percent across the board cut to several state agency and office budgets. This could save much more than the closures, depending how many agencies are involved.

Rendezvous With Working Groups

Quinn stressed the need to “stabilize” pensions and “restructure Medicaid to make sure it’s always there.” But changes to both programs must await the findings of pension and Medicaid working groups.

The governor gave the pension working group an April 17 deadline to submit a blueprint.

The Medicaid group got no deadline. Quinn wants to cut $2.7 billion from Medicaid, which actually results in about $1.3 billion in state savings since the federal government reimburses about half of Medicaid costs.

Quinn was vague about where he might cut.

“In order to reduce cost pressures, we need to reconsider the groups who are eligible for Medicaid, the services we cover under the program, the utilization of these services and the way and amount we pay for them,” Quinn said.

“Let me repeat,” Quinn then added. “We must address eligibility, services, utilizations and payments.”

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), liked Quinn’s caution.

“Today he struck the appropriate tone needed to identify our challenges and outline some of the tough choices that will be made,” Cullerton said in a statement. For example, Quinn includes union representatives in his pensions working group. “Unlike Indiana and Wisconsin, we intend to work with unions to accomplish this goal,” Cullerton said.

Republican leaders, meanwhile, criticized Quinn for lacking leadership on pensions and Medicaid.

Scholarships and Spending

One big part of government Quinn does not want to cut by nine percent is education. Besides keeping education spending levels flat at about $9 billion, the governor proposed $623 million extra toward school district repairs, and $50 million more in the college scholarship Monetary Assistance Program.

Quinn also called for $20 million more in early childhood education. “You only get one chance to be four years old,” the governor said.

Image: AP Photo/Seth Perlman

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Wow cuts to the poor... Now should the leaders set an example in the cuts??? I have not heard any cuts with their wages or benefits.