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Question of the day

Monday, Mar 19, 2012

* The setup

When Gov. Pat Quinn laid out his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and called for closing dozens of facilities around the state, he revived a debate started nearly a decade ago under then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Just how much authority should state lawmakers have to block the governor from closing facilities that are often major employers in an area and provide significant economic impact?

The issue could come to a head this spring with at least one bill pending that would specifically give the General Assembly a final word on whether a facility stays open or is closed.

Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, introduced Senate Bill 3564 that requires the General Assembly to vote on a facility closure after the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability makes a recommendation. The bill is pending on the Senate floor.

As the above article notes, CoGFA’s vote is only a recommendation. The governor can still go ahead and close a facility if CoGFA votes against it. That hasn’t yet happened, however.

* The Question: Should the General Assembly be given authority to nix state facility closures? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


- Posted by Rich Miller        


45 Comments
  1. - Cassiopeia - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 9:46 am:

    If the GA is allowed to interfere they will impede any efforts at closure solely because of the local impact.

    The Governor needs to be able to manage as he deems appropriate, even if he is sometimes wrong.


  2. - gathersno - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 9:48 am:

    To maintain the balance of powers, the Governor should be able to run his agencies, including the closure of facilities without legislative approval. The Legislature already has budgetary powers over the agencies and that should be enough.


  3. - unspun - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 9:49 am:

    The legislature’s opportunity to weigh in occurs in the appropriations process. Facility/personnel management is solely an Executive function. The bill is unconstitutional.


  4. - Aldyth - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 9:49 am:

    No. It will all be about getting re-elected, instead of dealing with harsh realities.


  5. - morry levy - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 9:51 am:

    Over the last 35 years our governors are increasingly incompetent and should have authority to meet their competence.


  6. - TCB - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 9:54 am:

    This would be a serious breach of the executive powers of the Governor. No way he stands for this.

    If it wasn’t obvious, the GA absolutely should not have a say in facility closures beyond the COGFA process


  7. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 9:57 am:

    Voted yes … but that doesn’t mean we need a new law.

    The Legislature already has the power to target a specific project or institution by using a line item appropriation to fund whatever pet project they can get their compatriots to agree to. The Governor can line item veto it, and the Legislature and always over ride the veto.

    So the Legislature already has the last word.


  8. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:01 am:

    There is too much politics in the Closure of facilities, meaning the highest cost facilities are not the ones that get closed. Legislature can help stop that and make the Gov more accountable.


  9. - Small Town Liberal - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:13 am:

    - There is too much politics in the Closure of facilities -

    - Legislature can help stop that -

    Yes, because there is less politics in the GA…


  10. - Ex-Illinoisian - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:13 am:

    Legislature legislates, Governor implements. If the GA is allowed to interfere, the separation of powers is hampered. This is American Government 101.


  11. - mark walker - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:15 am:

    The Legislative powers of appropriation are enough input in this arena. Our Executive branch powers generally should be stronger, not weaker, if our state is to right itself.


  12. - MrJM - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:19 am:

    Should the General Assembly be given authority to nix state facility closures?

    Absolutely not. It would invite NIMBY politics of the worst kind (i.e., the kind that doesn’t benefit me).

    – MrJM


  13. - Newsclown - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:21 am:

    I voted “no”. The executive branch executes what the Legislative branch votes for. The proposed change would weaken the executive too much for my taste. The legislature would continue giving away the store to win votes in every case, without raising taxes, lest they lose those same votes. It’s a runaway feedback loop that ends in total gridlock and bankruptcy.

    If we keep the balance as-is, the threat of closures has to remain real, so the legislative branch grows some er, courage, and asks the public for the needed revenue increase.

    That said, I see nothing wrong with COGFA or a sort of BRAC commission advisory panel, advising the governor on how to best execute what he or she decides. Such panels help get the legislature to buy-into the process, and spread the blame.


  14. - Newsclown - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:24 am:

    I said “no”. The change weakens the executive in it’s proper function. The legislature has no courage so if it had this override power on top of veto overrides, it would only create a runaway negative feedback loop, where the legs gives everything away to earn votes, but refuses to raise revenues because that would lose votes. Disaster results.


  15. - Truthteller - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:27 am:

    Who thinks that George Ryan,Rod Blagojevich, or Pat Quinn select facilities for closure on good policy grounds? No one!

    Let the G.A. be accountable. If they think it’s a good idea, let them so proclaim.


  16. - Fed up - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:28 am:

    Well didn’t Gov Quinn inject himself into the legislative process by promising jobs to legislators in order to get his way. So maybe what goes around comes around neither group understands the separation of powers and the Illinois supreme court is a joke.


  17. - zatoichi - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:30 am:

    Yes but there also needs to be a good rationale of where real funding will come from. The Blago run showed a good reason for the concept. The facilities are an executive responsibility and funding comes through the GA, but as the recent closure plans have found there is also a significant local financial, employment, and personal effects that will need to be addressed. The first person to hear that part of the story is the local Rep/Sen. It is easy to focus only on the spreadsheet projections. Not so easy when 400-600 locals lose their jobs.


  18. - Jeff Park Mom - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:34 am:

    If the closure is part of the budget process the GA already has authority, as earlier commentors have noted. So why not have a process that ensures the GA has authority even if it’s a mid-year closure? I said yes.


  19. - Fed up - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:34 am:

    I’m not sure closing prisons is a good idea. Over 50 shot 10 dead this weekend in Chicago. Murders up over 40% year to date.


  20. - D.P. Gumby - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:35 am:

    No. Separation of Powers. Facility closure is an executive/management function not a legislative function. GA can’t even manage to do its own task properly; it doesn’t need anything else to mess up.


  21. - Lars - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:39 am:

    It is their job, not just an Executive who can’t make a rational decision in cases like these. The balance of power between branches in this case is integral to the safety of the community and the Governor’s decision is irrational and injurious to communities throughout the state.


  22. - Irish - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:40 am:

    I voted no for the following reasons. The ability to close should go with the action of appropriations. Rather than looking it at as the GA overstepping their bounds it should be looked at as the GA having to make the tough decisions related to their appropriations.

    You can’t have one hand giving out the money and the other hand deciding where to spend it. That leads to the GA appropriating just so much money and leaving the Governor on the hook to make the hard decisions.

    Ours is supposed to be a reprentation form of government. If the Governor can close all downstate facilities if he is from Chicago and knows he has the public votes from Chicago to stay in office where is the representation for the people from downstate?


  23. - Frank A CBHA - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:40 am:

    Unfortunately our memories are much too short about Illinois infamous reputation in the matter of inadequate suport for mental health care.

    In the 50’s we started closing units and state operated hospitals. That period of our history became known across the country as an example of how not to “deinstitionalize”.

    Progress always slow, was made many decades later

    The first closing of a SoH that included funding for the alternative treatment and community care individuals with Acute and Serious Mental Illness reuire was duriing the conversion of Meyer SoH under the Edgar administration.

    More recently our former Governor’s plan to close Tinley SoH and keep all the money for who knows what was rejected through leadership in the GA and CGFA and the resisitance was supported by a coalition of stakeholders.

    Closings are doable if that is the decision of “the decison makers” but closings which take a resource out of a regional system do require benchmarked plans, plans supported by reasonable appropriation amouns and must address the “civil confinement” role SoH’s play in a regional system.

    So that realistic budget (the GA constitutional authority), needs to be well thought out and requires input from all the stakeholders and community systems that rely on in-patient treament to help indiviuduals who are deemed dangereous to themselves or others back onto their road to Recovery and a meaningful life in their communities.

    Today’s Tribune columnist Dawn Turner Trice interview with Dr. Kopera about his view on his 32 years leading what was once known as Edgewater Uptown MH Center, is a recommended quick read that touches on Illinois history that we in the field all very familar with here in Illinois.

    Yes closings can be done right, the plans must be transparent and practical and with the work of the Governor’s office, the GA and stakeholders we can have a plan or plans in which the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors and loved ones who are dependent on a safety net are not placed in harms way.

    have a great day


  24. - Irish - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:41 am:

    Sorry, I meant I voted yes.


  25. - Eugene - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:42 am:

    Bottom line: no governor should have the UNILATERAL power to close state facilities. The impact on public safety, services for the most vulnerable, and local economies is too great to rest on one person’s judgement. And that goes double for this governor!


  26. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:47 am:

    S.T.L–I know there are politics throughout the Legislature but at least it may perform some type of check and balance. It should be that the most inefficient site should be closed over one where they didn’t vote as the Governor wished.


  27. - steve schnorf - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:54 am:

    Isn’t this basically the “impoundment” debate? The GA can appropriate funding for a specific facility (or program). The Governor can veto it. The GA can overide the veto. Must the Governor then spend the money as the GA intended? My last recollection of hearing this vigorously debated regarding Illinois’ state government was under Governor Walker, I think.

    I believe the answer to the question is “no”.


  28. - hisgirlfriday - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:56 am:

    The G.A. can nix facility closures by raising revenue and appropriating more money to prevent facility closures.

    It’s not popular for governors to close facilities so if the G.A. can come up with a way to pay for keeping them open, I find it hard to believe that any governor would buck the G.A. on that.

    The G.A. has enough of a say with the closure hearings and the CFGA.


  29. - Fed up - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:56 am:

    Maybe Quinn will make the transition from if you vote for my tax increase I will give you a state job to if you don’t vote the way I want I will close facilities in your district, Quinn is not an honest man and should not have the ability to lord over the legislator with these powers.


  30. - Levois - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:02 am:

    I would say yes, provided that they’re able to find money somewhere to keep the facilities open. Legislators have oversight over many things they should use their oversight over finances to justify what should stay open!


  31. - Colossus - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:04 am:

    I voted no. You think the GA runs from hard votes now? Imagine if blame for closing a facility was disbursed throughout all the members instead of focused into a single person. We would never, EVER close a single facility again if this was put in place.


  32. - JustaJoe - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:06 am:

    Voted No. But, unfortunately, the decision becomes subject to too many political influences, and as a commenter above noted, such things should be tied to a budget process - a legitimate budget process. The Executive Branch needs some latitude to manage the execution of state services that are funded through a budgeting process, but that management needs to be professionally-based, not based on political clout or interest. Do you know that IDOT tracks the use of transportation funds by legislative district? ….wonder why?


  33. - OSIboy - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:11 am:

    I voted Yes- Cogfa was created to help address this problem, but what happens when we get an even more ridiculous Governor in Quinn’s place? Suddenly every down-state, non-incumbent district will have their facilities closed. Lets be honest- these facilities are all at 90%+ capacity, many of them are adult centers that work to alleviate our prison population problem. We shouldn’t be closing facilities- that costs communities money, jobs, and valuable services. We should be cutting the fat from our budget by stopping the tax loopholes and giveaways that saw CME and Sears walk away with millions while cutting jobs from Illinois. Cutting jobs doesn’t save jobs.


  34. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:12 am:

    Fed Up-

    That is a ridiculous comment. You are the first to whine about a balance budget and yet you would take away a Governor’s powers to do everything in his or her power to manage the budget. Check your partisanship on here just once and look at the situation in terms of governing. Sheesh.


  35. - bartelby - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:13 am:

    It seems a sure bet that no legislator will ever vote to close a facility in his or her district. The Tamms debate makes that clear: Phelps and Forby care about one thing only, jobs and money in their district. The larger needs of the state as a whole — and the human rights issues — are invisible for them. I am sure that same parochialism will be repeated by every legislator if the governor loses the right to close facilities.


  36. - Leroy - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:13 am:

    The General Assembly already has a ‘vote’ on facility closures in how they appropriate funds. if it is the will of the General Assembly to keep open specific state facilities, then they receive specific appropriations lines in a budget. The Governor can choose to execute those spending priorities or not.


  37. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:13 am:

    By the way, I voted no. This would be the GA usurping the Governor’s powers in my opinion. The GA has overstepped their powers a lot in my opinion as a result of their reaction to the Blago era.


  38. - Colossus - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:28 am:

    Fed Up -

    Let’s pretend it’s 1996 and we’re having this conversation. Perhaps that will help to put it into perspective. These are questions about the Governor’s authority, not about whether you want Quinn to be able to do something. The office and the person are two different things and just because you don’t like the person doesn’t mean you go changing the office.

    Further, your concerns about violent crime in Chicago are not going to be in any way addressed or alleviated by keeping more prisons open.

    I’m all for conversation, but when your conversation comes down to “Quinn-unions-tax-hike-payback-whargarble” you’re just expressing a political preference, not speaking to the fundamental question at hand.


  39. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:55 am:

    I voted no because this would appear to dilute the Governor’s executive powers.

    Being in charge, does not always mean that you get to be Santa Claus. Sometime you have to be the adult. The Governor needs to do his/her job to the best of their abilities. If they do a bad job, they will be replaced.


  40. - Earnest - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 11:57 am:

    No. The Governor has his role and responsibilities and the GA has theirs.


  41. - the Patriot - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 1:03 pm:

    Both are making the decision soley on a political basis, and not based on actual cost benefit analysis.

    Tamms opened violence in prisons plummeted because inmates don’t want to go there. It is very expensive to operate. But we have to ask is it ok to turn 150 of the worst people in the history of the state back into prisons where they have proven they cannot behave. How many inmate on inmate and inmate on guard assults are acceptable?

    Is one guard death a year worth saving $10 million? What about the lawsuits that will come when an inmate is assutlted when the state turned the offender back into general popluation knowing he has a history of similar conduct?

    If you want to oppose the death penalty, you have to be willing to house these people. If you are not willing to house them, you have to accept the consequences that will come by putting them back in prison not designed to house them safely.


  42. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 1:45 pm:

    What Schnorf said.

    Lost in a different Constitutional crisis during the Nixon Era (I forget the name) was the whole issue of impoundment. Congress appropriated, Nixon simply refused to spend the money.

    Like many of the questions along the fault lines of the executive, legislative and judicial branches, the national and state Constitutions don’t necessarily contain all the answers.


  43. - Fed up - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 2:45 pm:

    Demoralized, I don’t whine about a balanced budget it is part of the state constitution that Quinn Madigan and their ilk just choose to ignore. My saying that Quinn shouldn’t have this authority isn’t partisan. In case you didn’t know this the Illinois house and senate are controlled by Dems. Yes I don’t think Quinn should have very many powers he has shown by his willingness to lie over and over again that he is not an honest man. Any belief that Quinn won’t use his power to close state facilities as a bargaining chip when seeking votes for his programs is as naive as thinking the tax increase is just temporary.
    Colossus, let’s not pretend its 1996 let’s live in the now. Ryan is in prison, Blago is in prison, Quinn lies about taxes the death penalty, firing U of I trustees, accepting cash and endorsements for job guarantees. It’s not partisan it’s common sense Illinois governors just shouldn’t have alot of powers they cannot handle it.


  44. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 8:49 pm:

    Schnorf is correct once again.

    The Legislature controls the purse strings. The Governor can’t spend money without their okay.

    But just because the legislature Appropriates doesn’t mean the Governor HAS to spend the money. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need a governor.


  45. - Reformed - Monday, Mar 19, 12 @ 10:15 pm:

    Rich-
    I think you may be wrong about the Governor never closing a facility after COGFA votes against it. Kankakee MSU was closed after COGFA failed to approve the Governors recommendation. It was a 6-6 tie, but still not a vote to close.


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