* This pretty much sums up the situation on multiple levels…
Jack Lavin, Quinn’s chief of staff said, “Every year, we say, ‘This is the toughest budget,’ and I’m saying again this year, ‘This is the toughest budget we’ve ever faced.’”
Needless to say, if Gov. Pat Quinn had taken more decisive action earlier in his administration, these cuts wouldn’t be necessary. But, I suppose, that’s all water under the bridge now.
* And this is misleading…
Hours before Gov. Quinn presents his budget proposal, Republicans are already working to defeat it.
State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, says despite Quinn’s plans to close 14 state facilities, include prisons in Dwight and Tamms, the $33.8 billion budget actually increases spending.
“That’s a billion dollars more in spending and that’s just simply unacceptable,” Brady said.
Brady says he won’t support any new spending, especially when Illinois is already $8 billion behind in paying its bills.
Total spending is rising by a billion dollars mainly because state pension payments are set to rise by a billion dollars next fiscal year. Tribune…
The quick math: The state expects to take in about $700 million more during the financial year that starts July 1. State worker pension costs alone will rise by more than $1 billion.
And even the pension reform proposal submitted by House Republican Leader Tom Cross would raise pension spending by a biliion dollars next year.
The cuts are coming in the state’s operating budget, and Rep. Brady knows that. Fortunately for him, most reporters outside of Springfield don’t understand the difference. Also, several Republicans announced yesterday that they were vehemently opposed to making local school districts pick up part of their pension costs, so either the Republicans are going to need to spell out even more specific cuts to avoid looking hypocritical, or they’ll count on lax reporting. Wanna bet on what they do?
* From AFSCME…
“Budget cuts have gone too far already, harming priorities like public safety and care for the most vulnerable. Further devastating cuts to public services and thousands of lost jobs are the worst possible approach to what ails our state. Illinois has the nation’s 13th-largest state economy but ranks 42nd in state spending, the 5th-largest population but the smallest state workforce per capita. The problem is an unfair tax system riddled with giveaways—to rich people, who pay a lower effective tax rate while the middle class gets squeezed, and to corporations, two-thirds of which pay no corporate income tax at all.”
The union knows full well that the state Constitution won’t be changed this year to implement a graduated income tax.
* The Tamms Super-Max prison is by far Alexander County’s largest employer, so I get the local anger…
The… Tamms closure was drawing heavy criticism from Southern Illinois legislators throughout the day Tuesday. The criticism was directed at Quinn, a Chicagoan. “I’m mad as hell. I don’t know where this guy is coming from,” state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, wrote in a Twitter feed.
But the prison has long been described as little more than a state-run torture chamber…
The BND published an investigative series in August 2009 reporting that many inmates at Tamms were mentally ill and became worse because of long-term solitary confinement in the prison located in the southern tip of Illinois. It holds inmates the state describes as the “worst of the worst.”
Laurie Jo Reynolds, head of the Tamms Year Ten Committee, said closure is long overdue.
“From the day it opened, Tamms has been a financial boondoggle and a human rights catastrophe. The staff to prisoner ratio is the highest in the system and the mental health worker to prisoner ratio is vastly higher,” Reynolds said.
Two Republican lawmakers, whose districts include Dwight and who have pushed for cuts in state spending, immediately condemned the closing.
“This is the typical pattern we have come to expect from this governor,” said state Rep. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign. “He doesn’t back up his ideas with facts or long-term plans, instead offering an unrealistic plan of closing prisons at a time when those facilities are already overcrowded.”
Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, promised a fight over the proposal.
“They have tried to close Pontiac (prison) twice and now they want Dwight. Shame on them. Do they not think they are absolutely crippling the economy of Livingston County?” Cultra said. “Governor Quinn needs to rest assured of one thing, we are in this fight for the long haul and that’s exactly what this is — a fight over families’ lives, local economies and our state’s public safety.”
* More predictableness…
Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, lambasted the governor for balancing the budget “off the backs of the sickest and the weakest and the least of thee.”
Following a legislative hearing about expected state income, Flowers also chastised Quinn for considering a cutback in hours at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield — the most popular presidential library in the nation, which draws more than 350,000 tourists and schoolchildren a year. Some tourist sites would close up to two days a week during off-peak times, the administration said.
“I’m not happy at all,” Flowers said. “In light of Presidents Day just being a couple of days past, Lincoln would probably be sitting at his desk with the candlelight burning, crying and knowing that the children of this state would be deprived of the opportunity to learn about our history.”
One issue Quinn is not overtly pushing in his latest budget is his plan to sell bonds to ease the huge backlog of unpaid bills. That plan, which was a major component of his fiscal 2012 budget proposal, failed to win over legislators.
Borrowing is off the table, but the past due bills issue is not. Quinn has essentially punted this issue to the General Assembly.
* Another punt…
Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget speech won’t include specific plans for fixing two of Illinois’ biggest financial problems.
Aides say Quinn will outline the depth of the state’s pension and Medicaid problems Wednesday and discuss general solutions. But they acknowledge he won’t spell out exactly what the governor thinks should be done.
Quinn advisor Jerome Stermer told reporters Tuesday evening that Quinn will work with lawmakers and outside groups to negotiate solutions.
There are good reasons to defer proposing bold solutions for these problems tomorrow since nobody is on the same page as of yet. But the lack of specifics opens the governor up to all sorts of criticism…
Illinois GOP Party Chairman and Congressman Aaron Schock accused Quinn of showing no leadership on pensions and warned him not to build the budget on projections of Medicaid savings that may never materialize.
Hey, Congressman Schock. Have you solved all the federal budget problems yet? Until you do, perhaps you could get back to your own job. Thanks.
Shutting down six adult transition centers, including two in Chicago and one in Aurora, would result in $17.7 million in savings. Prisoners at these halfway houses would be put on electronic home detention when they weren’t employed in their communities during the day.
“We will not jeopardize public safety. That’s our No. 1 concern,” said Jack Lavin, Quinn’s chief of staff. “We’ll work closely with … the Department of Corrections to make sure public-safety concerns are addressed on these closures.”
Last year I was at a White Sox game and two women behind me had unusual devices strapped to their ankles. I politely asked if they were electronic monitoring devices and they cheerily admitted they were supposed to be on home confinement. But, they said, nobody ever seems to monitor their movements. So, they decided to enjoy a ballgame.
* And your grim budget roundup…
* GOP lawmakers urge Quinn to back off pension cost shift for local schools
* Rest of IL budget to be squeezed by pensions, Medicaid: Medicaid and pensions “are putting the pressure on roads, on state parks, on school transportation,” state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said. “When you have Medicaid (going) from $5 billion to $10 billion in five years, that is putting all of the pressure on other things.”
* Medicaid spending could drive up other IL health costs: One out of every three hospitals in the state is operating in the red, said Chun. Decreasing how much the state pays doctors for treating Medicaid patients or cutting services covered by Medicaid will force hospitals to make up the difference elsewhere. “Health-care costs will go up for non-Medicaid patients and for employers who pay for insurance and premiums,” Chun said. Any Medicaid cut “has a domino effect across the health-care system,” he said.
* Quinn wants spending cuts but largely punts on key Medicaid, pension spending: Still, department Director Julie Hamos is outlining a “menu” of $3 billion in potential cuts, though some insiders say they believe the state will do well to hold spending even next year, rather than letting it increase by the usual $600 million or so.
* 14 facilities proposed for closure in Quinn austerity budget: Vaught said the closures are fallout from the state’s crushing pension costs. State revenues are expected to increase by $720 million in the next budget, but pension costs alone are supposed to increase by $1 billion. “In the rest of the budget, we suffer the squeeze,” Vaught said. “There is no new money for anything else. Everybody in the state is going to be affected by this downsizing of state government.”
* Lawmakers: Medicaid cuts necessary
* Illinois Mental-Health Cuts Seen Reducing Doctor Access for All Patients: Illinois’ mental-health spending declined 12 percent to $520 million in fiscal 2012 from $591 million in 2009, according to NAMI Illinois, a patient advocacy group that’s part of the Arlington, Virginia-based National Alliance on Mental Illness… Illinois’ trims were among the deepest cutbacks in the U.S. and reflected worsening care for low-income, jobless and uninsured psychiatric patients across the U.S., said Dr. Michael Wahl, president of the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians.
* ‘This is an absolute nightmare’: Quinn to close Murray Center in Centralia; 550 jobs at stake: During a budget briefing Tuesday evening with reporters, Quinn’s chief of staff, Jack Lavin, said Murray Center is in need of a “significant amount of maintenance.”… But Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem, said the center actually doesn’t cost anything to operate. “It’s the only facility in the state of Illinois that doesn’t lose money. It actually makes money because of the federal funds that come into it,” Cavaletto said.
* Quinn: Tamms, Dwight prisons should close
* Dwight prison on chopping block
* Intelligence Report: What will Gov. Quinn cut?: “Number one, I didn’t create all this, I inherited it, and our job is to eliminate it and to reform everything and repair it - that’s my job. You know, I assumed office after one governor in jail and the other one going to jail, but we’re going to have to reform the system. I’m going to outline how to do it,” said Quinn. “We have a pension working group that is working on it and we’ll have to get it done this year. It’s a tall mountain but I’m prepared to lead the journey up that mountain and we’re going to accomplish our goal.”
* Quinn wants to close Aurora facility
* Aside from facility closings, Quinn’s budget proposal is expected to be short on details: However, Quinn also plans to call for some new spending. The governor wants a $20 million increase for early childhood education and a $50 million increase for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for college students. Both areas have been cut in recent budget years. The governor also plans to revisit tax cut proposals pitched in his State of the State address as ways to spur economic growth in the state. Quinn also plans to propose new capital spending on schools, water systems and deferred maintenance at state facilities. His budget staff said that he does not have a specific estimate for how much new capital borrowing would be needed for such projects. They said new revenues would be needed to fund the projects but did not point to any one source. “We need to make sure that it’s not just about cutting. It’s about building and growing,” Lavin said of Quinn’s proposal.
* Editorial: What Quinn won’t say
* Editorial: What we’d like to hear in Quinn’s speech today
* Editorial: Quinn’s day to act on newfound toughness: This is decidedly un-Quinn-like toughness — and we like it. Let’s have that rendezvous with reality, Governor. Beats living in the Twilight Zone.