Next week Wednesday, there will be another hearing on the Jacksonville Developmental Center closure in Jacksonville and then there will be another hearing in Centralia for the closing of the Murray Developmental Center in the near future.I am quoted in this story from the Pantagraph in Bloomington.
Today I am heading to Utica to meet with Charlotte Cronin!
Erickson: Stage set for bitter fight, happy innkeeps
There was no applause — none — from members of the Illinois General Assembly during Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget speech on Wednesday, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t clapping and cheering somewhere in Springfield when he finished up his relatively short and modestly sobering speech.
Quinn outlined the financial problems facing the state — exploding pension costs and soaring Medicaid expenses — and then dropped a bombshell with his plans to close two prisons, six work-release centers, two juvenile jails, two more developmental centers and dozens of other state facilities.
“Don’t plan on going home for the summer until we are done,” Quinn told members of the House and Senate.
Somewhere in the Capital City, innkeepers, bartenders and restaurant owners were smiling, thinking about the bonanza they’ll reap if the 177 members of the General Assembly, their staff and all those lobbyists are forced to camp out in or near the Capitol at a time when the city is typically quiet.
Their hopes for a lucrative summer overtime session were buoyed when House Speaker Michael Madigan was interviewed on public radio after the governor’s speech.
“I’m prepared to spend the summer in Springfield,” Madigan said. “Springfield’s a nice town in July and August.”
Before the lodging and food folks begin counting their summer bounty, however, they should remember this is an election year. With every district up for grabs in November, you can bet that legislators will prefer to be home in their districts talking about all the good things that they did this spring.
Being stuck in Springfield during the summer months may be disadvantageous to incumbent lawmakers.
Take a look back at 2004. That was the summer former Gov. Rod Blagojevich decided he was going to play tough with Madigan, resulting in a mind-numbing 54 days of overtime.
Among the legislators who had to spend time in the Capitol that summer was Democrat Bill Grunloh of Effingham. His relative absence may have given his opponent, Republican David Reis of Willow Hill, a big head start on the campaign trail.
We’ll never know for sure if Reis was actually aided by Blagojevich’s pigheadedness, but Reis did go on to win the race.
Going up, not down
Despite the gloomy aspects of Quinn’s budget proposal, Republicans and Democrats were quick to point out that he’s actually calling for more spending in the coming fiscal year.
“The governor touted budget cuts, but at the end of the day overall state spending is going up, not down under his proposal,” said state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington. “We currently have more than $8 billion in unpaid bills that’s anticipated to grow to $30 billion in five years. To pay those bills, we need to spend less next year, not more.”
“When we’re in the middle of a budget crisis, we should not be giving more money to any program unless we have to because of a contract, the Illinois Constitution or a federal law,” added state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton. “Gov. Quinn wants to give more money to dozens of programs …. When he’s talking about closing prisons and other facilities, that’s just not right.”
Two sides to closure story
The governor put a bull’s-eye on the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia during his budget speech, saying the developmentally disabled residents who reside there should be moved into community settings. Some agree with this idea.
On one side is Tony Paulauski, executive director of the ARC of Illinois: “I commend Gov. Quinn for taking the bold and heroic steps necessary to provide the best opportunities for persons with disabilities. The governor’s announcement to close the Murray Developmental Center complements his plan to close the Jacksonville Developmental Center and further illustrates his commitment to providing cost-effective and personalized care for people with disabilities.”
Some disagree with the idea.
Karen Kelly, president of the Illinois Nurses Association, offered up this testimonial: “My son Eric is 38 years old, severely autistic, nonverbal and needs care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He has received care from the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia since 1999 but his care is in jeopardy if Gov. Quinn’s budget cuts are approved by the General Assembly. Eric functions at the developmental level of a 30 month old child, but is 6 feet 5 inches and weighs 250 pounds. He is happy, well cared for, safe from harm and lives only an hour from his family home.”
Quinn has set the stage for another bitter fight.
Kurt Erickson is Lee Statehouse Bureau chief. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-782-4043.