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Digging deeper into the budget

Monday, Feb 27, 2012

* 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.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Bruno Behrend - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 10:01 am:

    Develop a steep premium schedule financed by dramatically higher premiums on the richest pensions. Tax the rich pensions to fund HC for the poor pensions.

    Play around with the concept to find the optimal mix, but if your pension is over $100K, you can afford to pay for health insurance/health care. If your pension is over $150K, you can afford to fund a few of your retired comrades as well.

    Spread the (pension) wealth.

  2. - Rich Miller - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 10:20 am:

    ===Tax the rich pensions to fund HC for the poor pensions.===

    There aren’t enough “rich pensions” to do that.

  3. - Anonymous - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 10:28 am:

    “You (also) have a lot of people between the ages of 55 and 65 who wouldn’t qualify for Medicare yet,” he said.

    Why should the state subsidize the health care for people who want to retire before age 65? If you can’t afford to support yourself, you should keep working!

  4. - Shock & Awww(e) - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 10:29 am:

    The logic here is disturbing.

    Want to reduce prison population? OK.

    Want to reduce parole staff? OK.

    Want to reduce prison population-adult transition centers while reducing parole staff 50%? Not OK. Problem.

    Still reserving judgment on the budget proposal, but this example gives one pause concerning the level of planning and vision behind some of PQ’s “plans”.

  5. - Iknow - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 10:32 am:

    Place inmates in the community on electronic monitoring, which traditionally has high rates of violation will result in more returns to prison…unless of course if they choose not to violate them.

  6. - Not in the Know - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 10:40 am:

    2010….4,200+(up 27% from 2009) with $100,000 and over. Give it time.

  7. - PublicServant - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 10:56 am:

    Pensions aren’t a state employee to state employee redistribution plan, Bruno. They are deferred compensation paid for by the employer to the employees as part of the compensation package that retained those good employees through good times and bad, and there haven’t been many good times lately. I know I stayed because of the pension, though periods of no raises, once for over three years, and through the mandated furlough days, and I made financial decisions for my family based on the pension and other benefit laws in effect throughout my employment with the state. Here I thought you republicans, with all your small, medium, and large business owners, would understand contract law. The state Supreme Court sure did in its Sklodowski ruling in 1998.

    The middle class are the ones taking it on the chin for this republican-caused recession. But the republicans are doubling down now that money is tight in trying to pit sections of the middle class against each other by suggesting that they shoulder the burden of poor decision-making at the state level for the last 3+ decades. Not gonna happen, B.

  8. - mark walker - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 11:01 am:

    It’s going to be tough all around. It’s good to point out some adjustments that have to be made to the plan, but no need to nit-pick before shaving the head.

  9. - justsickofit - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 11:10 am:

    “Why should the state subsidize the health care for people who want to retire before age 65? If you can’t afford to support yourself, you should keep working!” Yes, yes, yes! There are only 5,000 not eliglible for Medicare, so I’d guess the former group is the bulk of the cost.

  10. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 11:24 am:

    Anonymous @ 10:28 am:

    Because the State asked me to retire early?

    They wanted the savings in their personnel line item and they got it by hiring an entry level person at half my old salary. The difference can more than pay for my health care.

  11. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 11:33 am:

    justsickofit @ 11:10 am:

    Don’t believe all those high numbers some State people toss around about the health insurance. I’ve seen numbers as high as $1,200 - $1,600 a month thrown around and wondered how they came up with that.

    In the SJ-R story last Friday about Health Alliance, they cited 93,000 people covered at a cost of about $400M annually. That comes out to $4,301 annually per person, or $358 a month. The state saved several thousand a month even after replacing me with an entry level person. I’ve got HA as my insurer, so I think they can afford to provide the insurance that was promised.

  12. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 11:39 am:

    Anon 10:28:

    They give free healthcare to people who are not working and cant afford it or their kids, I am sick of people allowing that and when people who have worked their entire life elect to retire they are bashed for taking advantage of what is out there.
    It is not PC but how about cutting some of the entitlements to able bodied people who REFUSE to work?

  13. - reformer - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 11:47 am:

    Are you actually proposing a progressive tax rate? With a higher rate on those with higher pensions?

    Here I thought conservatives were absolutely opposed to progressive taxation as Marxist class warfare. Welcome to the club, brother. Let’s join together to amend our state consitutiton to permit a progressive income tax!

  14. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 11:48 am:

    Don’t get the sense in cutting the parole officers.

    I have a relative (in another state) who heads a NFP that reintegrates long term prisoners back into society. Studies have shown those types of programs are critical to avoid relapse. Admittedly, parole officers don’t provide that intense level of support but they do serve as a check.

    Is there any plan to have NFP’s or NGO’s take over the role of the parole officer or to provide reintegration assistance to parolees?

  15. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 12:00 pm:

    According to the US Dept of Justice, Illinois and Texas
    Are the only two states where prison populations are increasing.

    We could follow Kentucky’s lead and stop locking folks up for nonviolent drug crimes.

    We could follow California’s lead and stop violating parollees back to prison for technical violations of parole.

    We could follow the lead of a bunch of states and
    Re-examine our mandatory sentencing and good time release policies.

    Corrections is one area of the budget where we have lots of
    More cost-effective solutions.

  16. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 12:02 pm:

    FYI, TRIP is not free health coverage. Everyone pays in, the state, the districts, the current teachers and the retired teachers.

  17. - Concerned Voter - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 12:18 pm:

    Wow, I am getting dizzy from the circular reasoning behind some of the cost savings and closures. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

  18. - wordslinger - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 12:24 pm:

    It’s great to see some reporters are digging deep into the budget and actually getting stories on it published. That’s about as rare as a Blackhawks power-play goal.

  19. - langhorne - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 12:26 pm:

    take a program providing something as important as health care for 71,500 retirees, and go from $90 mil to zero in one fell swoop, without warning or discussion or details of any sort. that is not a “plan”. it is a frontal attack. perhaps it is being thrown out there a a bargaining chip to gain leverage elsewhere.

  20. - Liberty First - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 1:13 pm:

    What makes more sense than defaulting on contractual obligations is a retroactive income tax….. that would be fair since it is the citizens of Illinois who are responsible for their elected politicians, not the employees.

  21. - the Other Anonymous - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 2:13 pm:

    “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.”

    Didn’t we go there before — cutting the number of parole officers to a ridiculous level — under Edgar? There wasn’t mayhem in the streets, but it wasn’t a really good system either.

  22. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 2:35 pm:

    FWIW, TRIP funding is also a continuing appropriation, meaning Quinn will have to do more than just zero out the approp in order to defund the program.

    Not that deep thinking and long term planning were ever this crew’s top strengths.

    “Hey, pass my budget because I wrote out the speech this year, k?”

  23. - TCB - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 3:07 pm:

    @ Arthur

    It’s a budget speech, it’s the Governor’s job to make recommendation on what needs to be done & it seems like he’s done that. It’s now up to the General Assembly (hopefully with Quinn’s input) to draft & pass a budget.

  24. - This is nuts - Monday, Feb 27, 12 @ 7:44 pm:

    DOC cant handle the intake they have now they are not returning parole violators for violations they should be- they let them aprole out
    cut the parole staff - work release staff- close prisons but keep hireing high paying executive staff like 5 since this guys been the chief

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