Gov. Pat Quinn has decided to close several state correctional facilities in addition to shutting down the Tinley Park Mental Health Center and Jacksonville Developmental Center, as we have previously reported.
But how can Quinn order these shut downs after the General Assembly passed a budget with money to keep them open? What power does Quinn have and what powers do lawmakers have?
As explained in civics class, the legislative body holds the exclusive power to pass a state budget. By doing so, the legislature sets aside money for certain uses, such as the money needed to keep open Tinley Park Mental Health Center or Tamm Correctional Center, a supermax prison.
But Quinn can “veto” budget line items just like the governor can veto any bills passed by the legislature.
According to Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft, “When money is vetoed or reduced it is no longer there.” So Quinn cannot shift money to other agencies in state government.
For example, saving money in the Department of Corrections budget does nothing directly to free up money for the education budget, a budget that Quinn argued was shortchanged by the General Assembly.
The governor, though, can move around money within a government agency. Some of the money not used to keep Tamms open could become money to transfer Tamms inmates to another prison.
According to Kraft, Quinn will sign the education budget and every other fiscal bill the General Assembly passed by this Sunday, July 1, the first day of the new budgetary year.
Then when state legislators return for a fall “veto” session in November, which typically is one to two weeks long, “They can have discussions on the amount reduced or eliminated and then decide if that money should be used elsewhere,” Kraft says.
There would be enough time left in the fiscal year to reallocate cash to the education budget, money that might replenish the early childhood education program and provide resources for local school districts. That would be the desired outcome for Quinn and progressive advocacy groups like Voices for Illinois Children.
But many legislators will be in no mood to give Quinn what he wants. Not just Republican leaders, like House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), but also downstate Democrats like State Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton), who represents the village of Tamms, and is upset by the facility closures.
State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) has even said that Quinn went back on his word by ordering the facility closures. According to Rich Miller, Bost implied that Quinn promised some lawmakers that the facilities would be kept open if the governor got enough votes for a $1-a-pack cigarette tax increase.
Quinn’s office denied any suggested quid pro quo.
Quinn appeased lawmakers in last year’s veto session by undoing planned facility closures, including the Tinley Park Mental Health Center. But it’s hard to logistically see that happening again as Tinley Park is supposed to shut down Monday, meaning it will be shuttered for months prior to the veto session. Tamms and other correctional facilities, including Dwight women’s prison, are set to close August 31.