The Governor’s new initiative to close four state institutions over the next two and a half years will be considered today in the General Assembly. The new budget proposal will keep state facilities open through June 30, 2012 and provide for a better transition to community services for about 600 residents in those facilities. Director Casey will discuss the Governor’s new initiative at our Executive Forum next Wednesday, December 7th.
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn is poised to abandon his plan to shutter seven state facilities, saying he has reached an agreement with top legislative leaders that will stave off the need to lay off more than 1,900 state employees over the next several weeks.
The $273 million pact, reached after a closed-door meeting Monday with top officials in the House and Senate, would stop pink slips from going out to workers at Logan Correctional Center, the youth prison in Murphysboro, the Chester Mental Health Center and four other facilities.
“After working closely with the General Assembly this veto session, we have reached a bipartisan budget agreement that achieves the goal of keeping the seven state facilities slated for closure open throughout this fiscal year using existing state resources,” Quinn said in a statement.
The deal remains subject to approval by members of the House and Senate, who are returning to the Capitol today in an attempt to wrap up a number of loose ends left over from the six-day fall veto session.
Quinn budget chief David Vaught said the agreement doesn’t add spending to the cash-strapped state budget. Rather, it gives the governor more flexibility to use existing state dollars to not only keep facilities from closing but directs funds at other programs that were cut as part of the budget approved by lawmakers in May.
Along with adding money for drug and alcohol treatment programs, the tentative agreement earmarks $8 million to help counties pay for burials of poor, deceased people.
“Most people think we should have an indigent burial program,”Vaught said.
The new changes don’t violate an agreement among Republicans and Democrats to cap state spending for the fiscal year at $33.2 billion, said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
“We’re supportive of the proposal,” Brown said Monday night.
Senate president John Cullerton also supports the plan, a spokesman said Monday.
It remained unclear Monday whether 21 employees of the Illinois Department of Agriculture would be rehired if the agreement is approved by the General Assembly. The workers were laid off in October in the first wave of firings related to Quinn’s closure threats.
The new deal comes just days before workers at the Tinley Park Mental Health Center are scheduled to be let go. Vaught said the pact, if approved by lawmakers, will keep the facility open past its Dec. 3 closure date.
Although the agreement runs through the end of the budget year on June 30, it doesn’t mean smooth sailing for other state facilities. Quinn has already indicated that he plans to close four developmental centers and two psychiatric hospitals over the next 2½ years in order to reduce state costs.
The agreement does not restore raises that Quinn is refusing to pay members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. That issue remains the subject of a legal battle by the union.
AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said the deal could stop devastating reductions to needed state programs.