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*** UPDATED x1 *** More grim budget news

Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011

* The grim state budget situation is being felt all the way through the system

Inmates in at least one state prison are being forced to wear the same used underwear for several days in a row because of a clothing shortage.

The situation, says a prison watchdog group, is not only icky, but could potentially lead to illness. And it isn’t limited to just one facility.

In a recent report, the John Howard Association says a visit to the Taylorville Correctional Center found inmates wearing dirty, threadbare clothes that are only being washed twice a week.

Since the minimum-security prison only issues two pairs of boxer shorts to inmates, that means they must wear them for at least half of the week. Or, the group suggests, some inmates could decide to forgo wearing underwear altogether.

* Oy

With the start of a new budget year just two days away, thousands of Illinois businesses are still waiting for state income tax refunds dating back to 2009.

The Illinois Department of Revenue said Tuesday it would end the fiscal year June 30 still owing about $620 million in business income tax refunds. As of June 21, the department still owed 7,572 business income tax refunds, although spokeswoman Sue Hofer said the number by the end of the month would be lower because some since have been paid.

The oldest of the overdue refunds goes back to April or May of 2009, she said. The average amount of the refunds owed is $104,000. Hofer said refunds less than $5,000 have been paid.

The average is $104K? Wow. Yet more evidence that state government is one of the biggest drags on Illinois’ economy.

* Speaking of taxes, the Illinois Department of Revenue didn’t do so well in a recent state audit

In the agency’s Chicago and Springfield tax-processing offices, full- and part-time employees who handled confidential tax returns were permitted to carry personal cell phones equipped with cameras, Holland found.

Holland also found sensitive tax records on desks, open shelving areas and tables in areas where visitors had access and, in one instance, stored in an open bin in a readily accessible hallway within a tax-processing area.

Holland also disclosed instances where uncashed taxpayer checks turned up in the desk drawers of employees who no longer worked for the Department of Revenue and faulted the agency for not performing background checks on state workers who had access to the department’s taxpayer-information database.

“I don’t think we proved instances of identity theft,” Holland told the Chicago Sun-Times. “But I’d tell you, when you have so many people with so much access to so many records, it’s only a matter of time until something bad happens.”

* Turning to the city’s budget woes, the mayor is ending the furlough program

Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Tuesday to defuse a financial time bomb left behind by former Mayor Richard M. Daley — without unpaid furlough days and with or without union help.

“Furloughs have not worked out economically or for morale — and I’ve heard it directly from the workers. I also know that it’s not worked out for the taxpayers — the people I represent … It hasn’t been the panacea” it was purported to be, Emanuel said.

“June 30 … the furloughs will end. … The city work force will get their vacation days and their full work week in. The taxpayers will get that as well. … But, I’m committed to seeing through the $30 million in savings [generated by unpaid days off required of the entire city work force]. Make no mistake about it.” […]

On Tuesday, the mayor said he’s poised to wield his budget ax at midnight Thursday, presumably by sending out layoff notices.

And while he’s still holding out hope that organized labor will help bridge at least part of the gap, he’s prepared to act unilaterally if they don’t.

*** UPDATE *** From the Tribune

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today revealed that he’s offered City Hall labor unions a choice: Agree to $20 million in savings through work-rule changes or face 625 layoffs.

“If you don’t, that will be the choice left to me on behalf of the taxpayers,” Emanuel said at a news conference to announce Walgreens will add 600 jobs in Chicago over the next two years.

Labor leaders will take 10 days to two weeks to put together their own package of proposed cuts, the mayor said. He would not say whether he will issue the layoff notices in the meantime. “I’m not just going to sit here and wait. I’ll make certain decisions,” he said

* Related…

* Regional school chiefs await final state budget: According to information from Franklin-Williamson Regional Superintendent Matt Donkin, the state budget includes $2.2 million for program costs in the 2012 fiscal year, down from $4.4 million in 2011. The $4.4 million this year was 43 percent of the 2003 budget allotment.

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* CTA cuts 54 jobs, details $15M in savings

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* Walgreen to add 600 city jobs: In a news conference at a South Side Walgreen store, Mr. Emanuel and company officials announced the huge drugstore chain will add food products to roughly 40 additional stores in so-called food deserts, up from 11 currently that sell a wider range of groceries.

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- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Robert - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 11:49 am:

    $30 million in savings eliminated by Mayor Emanuel plus more spending to come on more police…it’ll be interesting to see what true cost savings he identifies, and how many people will get layoff notices.

  2. - Liberty First - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 11:51 am:

    Prisoners are wearing the same underwear for days yet CMS has bid requests out for cable tv and visitor video systems.

  3. - bored with press - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 11:52 am:

    Forget the underwear, take a look at the medical care.

    If legislators are going to keep increasing sentences every single term and cutting the community mental health and treatment programs that prevent people from going to prison, then they have to find a way to pay for the resulting mass incarceration.

    They (and especially Quinn) also get credit for ending Meritorious Good Time altogether, a move which really just amounted to adding time to the sentences of most men and women in the IDOC, which has led to extreme overcrowding.

    The prison population has increased by nearly 4000 in less than two years. And, that was after the state decided that it had to reduce prison populations. Good going, legislators.

  4. - bored with press - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 11:56 am:

    Just like the rest of us, most men and women in prison would rather have a chance to stay connected to their children and spouses than have clean underwear. Have a heart.

    And, as for cable TV….there is no programming, vocational training or education to speak of in many of these prisons. There is no money for books or librarians. They are stuck in cells all day, or in an overcrowded day room with way too many people and no AC. What is your proposal for keeping prisoners in overcrowded, stressed conditions?

  5. - South Side Mike - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 12:00 pm:

    Wow indeed, on all of the stories.

    For the prison underwear, I could see a federal lawsuit being brought against the prisons. I mean, refusal/inability to provide clean underwear is just begging to be smacked down. They forced the release of tens of thousands of prisoners in California, they can easily do so here, too. Clean underwear may not officially count as adequate medical care, but it can prevent a host of infections. Isn’t it cheaper to launder underwear more often if it avoids trips to the infirmary?

    For those companies awaiting refunds, I’m sure there’s nothing they could have done with $100K over the last year or two, nothing at all. Sure, that could cover at least one F-T employee with benefits for over a year at most places, but that’s okay, let them wait another year or two. /snark

    Finally, the result of the IDR audit is nothing short of unacceptable. Good job by Holland, but a head should roll for this. I’m not sure if it’s Hamer who should not get confirmed, but he should definitely spell out specific remedies for these findings before he is approved.

  6. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 12:08 pm:

    Headline: Illinois Prisoners Go Commando.

  7. - park - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 12:25 pm:

    Good for Mayor Newbie. Absolutely the right thing to do. No one wants to lay people off, but furloughs are unfair and self defeating. If you treat your workers fairly, you get loyalty and increased productivity. If you screw with them, you lose down the road. Maybe Quinn will follow the lead (doubt it).

    With all the things the State spends money on, how on earth can prisons continue to be underfunded? The first priority of government should be enforcing the law. There are truly BAD people out there, who must be kept out of society (ask any Cook County ASA). That doesn’t mean you can treat them indecently, or spend the money on other programs. And the answer isn’t blanket early releases. For God’s sake, fund the damn prisons.

  8. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 12:29 pm:

    Re: Park’s call for prison spending: there’s a very interesting debate/discussion nationally about why crime stats are generally down when traditional factors (demographics, economy) would predict otherwise. Some have suggested its the incresaed prison population (i.e., there’s not an unlimited supply of criminals out there)? Some have suggested poverty isn’t as bad as it used to be. Some have even suggested videogames help keep young males off the street.

  9. - Responsa - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 12:47 pm:

    Men in war zones have usually had to go for several days in the same underwear. Many of our own great grandparents took “Saturday night baths” and changed into clean underwear only then. The pioneers going west in covered wagons were rather limited in how often they could wash and change their underwear. In fact, even today seven year old boys are not all that fastidious about changing their underwear.

    Sure, inmates should have an expectation of reasonable cleanliness and I can see why some are upset. But for goodness sakes people–it’s not exactly a civil rights violation or the start of a new black plague if they can’t change every single day.

  10. - Just Because - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 1:01 pm:

    Tent City… make prison a place you dont want to go.

  11. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 1:29 pm:

    Maybe WalGreens will have those 600 jobs be security.

  12. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 1:43 pm:

    –Tent City… make prison a place you dont want to go.–

    People want to go to prison now? I doubt it.

  13. - Earnest - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 1:44 pm:

    My dad is in 90. A few years back he quit bathing, wouldn’t listen to my mother tell him how he smelled, or the barber who couldn’t get a comb through his hair. Finally his buddies at the bar told him and he took the hint. Now, as he puts it, “I take a bath every Saturday. Whether I need it or not!” He does change his underwear mid-week and on shower night and has shown no ill health effects. I’m hoping I inherited his genes (and not his hygiene).

  14. - Little Egypt - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 2:22 pm:

    If prisoners have a bar of soap and water in their cell, why can’t they wash out their own underwear each night? I think a lot of people could tell of at least one instance in their life when they had to do something like that for a variety of reasons. Quicherbellyachin and wash out your own drawers.

  15. - Robert - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 2:59 pm:

    Do prisons generally have A/C?

  16. - Observer of the State - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 3:08 pm:

    South Side Mike brought up a good point. For a number of reasons Illinois is at risk for the Federal Government stepping in and dictating how we run our prisons. Not the least of the reasons is that with out the early release programs the prison population has grown beyond our capacity.

    The long awaited IT system over haul that was suppose to take place seems to be stalled for lack of funds.

    There are problems with vendors for everything from toilet paper to food.

    I don’t think things have to get much worse before the Feds step in and then money will have to be diverted to DOC.

    On another note CMS does not determine what an Agency purchases. Their role is verify that the procurement code is followed. DOC decides on the purchase of video conferencing or clothing. It is their budget.

    There has been talk of using video conferencing for non-essential court hearings as a way to save money. An example would be a court date to set the date of a trial. Right now a prisoner would be bused to the court for that 5 minute appearance. It could also be handled by video for a lot less money.

  17. - Ryan from Carrollton - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 3:17 pm:

    Agree with Responsa, there’s people who are not disfunctional in society that have had to wear the same clothes for months on end because they were in combat actually doing something constructive.

  18. - bored with press - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 3:24 pm:

    Robert-No prisons do not generally have AC.
    Responsa-Men in war zones have nothing to do with anything. Is that a standard of reasonable treatment?
    Lake County Democrat-I’m surprised you are not pointing out the absurdity of extreme fear-mongering about crime WHILE the crime rate has steadily gone down. We have spiked our rate of imprisonment and increased penalties and we just keep going. There is no existing evidence that mass incarceration has done anything to reduce crime, but there is evidence that incarceration makes people more likely to commit another crime. Anyway, the wild assertions you are putting forth are wild assertions.
    What is up with these posts today?

  19. - What's in a name? - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 4:00 pm:

    As a kid I remember my grandfather telling me a story about making underwear last a week during the Depression:
    Day One: Wear the underwear
    Day two: Not too bad wear it again
    Day three: wear it backwards
    Day four: turn it inside out
    Day five: wear it backwards, inside out
    Day six: swap with your brother

    Day seven may have been go without and do laundry.

    It could be worse.

  20. - Liberty First - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 4:10 pm:

    Absolutely no excuse for cable tv in prison.

  21. - jerry 101 - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 5:33 pm:

    Sooo…given that CME Group apparently pays pretty much all the Corporate Income Taxes in Illinois (amongst the large business set at, least), it must be owed about $600 million of that refund bill. No wonder they’re angry. :-)

    IDOR - shameful, but it makes you wonder what for profit companies (banks, hospitals, insurance companies) are doing with our sensitive information if a State Agency with massive public disclosure requirements is doing such a poor job protecting people’s personal information. Private enterpises only have an issue once a big data loss becomes public information. Watch your credit reports people!

    LCD - or, it could be that police officers and departments aren’t accurately reporting crime statistics. A few months ago, This American Life had an episode on a big cover up in New York related to their crime reporting system and how crimes are being underreported (felonies being knocked down to misdemeanors) or unreported (just not filing a report for that woman who was raped).

    Responsa…do you realize what kinds of diseases people dealt with back then? Especially diseases that had to do with bodily wastes? Dysentary, cholera, crohn’s disease, polio, typhoid, etc. Public sanitation virtually eliminated a lot of those diseases that severely impacted people in the early 20th and late 19th centure, but so did changes in personal sanitation habits. Like bathing. And changing one’s clothes (especially underwear). People may have skipped regular bathing and changing their underwear back in the frontier days. But a lot of those people also died from cholera and typhoid. And dysentary inflicted horrific tolls upon armies throughout history.

  22. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 5:45 pm:

    Predection: The next audit will show that all those fancy cell phones with the cameras over at Revenue are paid for by the State.

  23. - Responsa - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 6:06 pm:

    jerry 101–

    Well, if you think inmates being furnished clean undies every other day instead of every day will turn Illinois into a 19th century hellhole rife with cholera, polio, typhoid, and dysentery–far be it from me to try to talk you out of it. LOL.

  24. - just askin' - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 9:19 pm:

    So the Auditor General discovered cell phones at the Department of Revenue!!! lions and tigers and bears oh my!!
    With all the knavery and thieving that comes with Illinois politics and government has the Auditor General ever found any of it?

  25. - Original Rambler - Wednesday, Jun 29, 11 @ 10:37 pm:

    That Revenue audit is much ado about very little. Copiers everywhere and they’re worried about cell phone cameras. Perhaps DOR employees should get strip searched when reporting to work.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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