* The AP looks at the Department of Corrections budget and finds some confusing claims…
Department of Corrections statistics show population has increased pretty steadily for the past decade. At the end of November, it was 2.3 percent above the 2010 level and 6.6 percent above 2001. Annual reports don’t reveal any significant drop in population since 2002.
To support Lavin’s claim of a downward trend, the Department of Corrections offered newer numbers showing a drop of 725 prisoners, or 1.5 percent, in the last five months. In addition, the department projects a drop of 2,746 in the next budget year.
Why does the department expect such a dramatic decline? That’s not entirely clear.
A spokeswoman said it’s based on plans to close those six halfway houses for inmates nearing the end of their sentences. The logic seems to be the department can close some facilities because the population will drop, and the population will drop partly because the department is closing some facilities.
* WBEZ has more on the closure of those six halfway houses…
The halfway houses funded by the Department of Corrections are known as adult transition centers. There are seven in the state, and all but one would be shut down under the budget proposed by Quinn last Wednesday. The low-level offenders who spend their nights there would instead be sent home and placed on electronic detention. […]
After the additional costs of electronic detention are subtracted, the Quinn administration projects a $17.7 million savings in the next fiscal year by closing the adult transition centers. There are currently more than 1,100 offenders housed at the centers, according to the administration.
The prisoners would be checked on by parole officers, even as Quinn’s budget calls for severe cuts to the number of parole officers in the state. Solano noted they would likely be hired back to other jobs as the parole department is reorganized, though she said details of that plan aren’t yet available.
The governor is actually proposing a 50 percent reduction in parole staff - 200 positions - at the very same time he’s dumping 1,100 more people into the system.
* Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget has another idea which will supposedly save $91 million…
Gov. Pat Quinn wants to slash state spending on a health insurance program for more than 65,000 retired teachers and community college retirees.
Under the governor’s plan, the state would no longer share in the cost of the system that helps pay for the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program and the College Insurance Program, which administers health insurance for community college retirees. […]
The governor’s office did not respond to specific questions about the proposal, which was tucked into Quinn’s 438-page budget blueprint released Wednesday.
“Due to the state’s fiscal challenges created over decades of mismanagement, we have zeroed out those lines and will work to achieve savings,” said Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft.
But there’s a problem with this plan. The two programs are funded with a continuing appropriation, meaning that the annual funding is automatic unless the General Assembly repeals the statute.
* The state’s share of the costs is only about 20 percent…
The state covers about 20 percent of the program’s cost. Much of the rest is paid for by contributions from working teachers and premiums from retirees that average about $577 a month, said Dave Urbanek, spokesman for the Teachers Retirement System.
* More details…
There are a total of 71,538 members of TRIP, including 61,188 retirees and 10,350 dependents. There are about 90,000 retired educators in Illinois.
Bachman said about 5,000 TRIP members age 65 and over don’t qualify for Medicare, leaving them with only TRIP for their health coverage.
“You (also) have a lot of people between the ages of 55 and 65 who wouldn’t qualify for Medicare yet,” he said.