* Keep in mind when reading this story about Blagojevich lies and incompetence that Gov. Quinn still has the same budget folks on board who touted this supposedly money-saving idea last year…
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich said closing Pontiac Correctional Center would save taxpayers about $4 million.
But a review of the costs associated with his failed plan to shutter the maximum-security lock-up shows that taxpayers have shelled out at least $4.1 million to pay for something that never happened. […]
The $4.1 million price-tag is based mainly on what the state paid or is under contract to pay in order to prepare Thomson Correctional Center to accept inmates from Pontiac.
The estimate does not account for some of the transportation costs related to the transfer of inmates throughout the state’s sprawling prison system that was under way before Gov. Pat Quinn scuttled Blagojevich’s plan.
According to state purchasing documents and interviews with state officials, it has cost an estimated $2.6 million to hire and house 208 additional correctional officers, all of whom now apparently will be farmed out to other prisons.
* Meanwhile, the CTA wants to pull a Filan and skip a big pension payment…
The Chicago Transit Authority is floating a plan to close a $155-million budget hole without raising fares, cutting service or boosting the size of its public subsidy.
But the proposal faces a very tough sales job in Springfield, where lawmakers would have to agree to allow the CTA to at least temporarily reduce contributions to its employee pension plan.
But the key to the plan is $40 million Ms. Brown would like to save by reducing mandatory CTA contributions to its pension fund.
Under a deal worked out last year in Springfield, the CTA restructured the plan, with workers agreeing to cut their benefits and the CTA agreeing to refinance it with a large bond issue.
The bonds were issued and proceeds turned over to the fund, which according to Ms. Brown now has a relatively healthy 84% ratio of assets to potential liabilities. But the agency still has to pay $132 million a year in debt service on the bonds and $58 million a year in annual pension contributions.
Ms. Brown says that’s not all needed, and wants to reduce the $58 million payment to about $18 million, at least for now.
Speaker Madigan apparently isn’t enthused, but this is exactly what Gov. Quinn wants to do with state pension plans, which have a far lower assets to liability ratio than the CTA’s pension fund does.
* The SJ-R thinks Quinn’s budget is too hard on state workers and says a Chicago casino is a better alternative…
Quinn told us Thursday that his budget’s critics must offer alternatives and not “chirp on the sidelines.” We continue to believe a downtown Chicago casino is a viable revenue-generating vehicle. While crafting a gambling bill is difficult because of the myriad interests that have to be satisfied, we’re not sure it’s any harder than coming to a deal on these changes with public employee unions.
The Springfield newspaper, which often bashes Chicago politics, is now willing to give the city a casino?
* And the Ag Director wants fee hikes…
llinois’ budget mess has reached the point that the director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture said Thursday it can no longer rely on the state’s general-revenue checkbook to pay for farm programs.
Tom Jennings wants to eventually make the agency self-supporting, and he has proposed starting with fee increases expected to bring in $2.9 million annually. The proposal includes raising more than two dozen fees ranging from fuel-pump inspections to costlier state fair admissions and charges for previously free services.
OK, but what happens when the governor (whomever it might be) inevitably raids the department’s special funds?