Where does your Senator stand on this bill? I have sent you two alerts on opposing SB 3564, please make your calls. This is very bad legislation that would make it virtually impossible to close any state institutions!
‘The Keep-Spending-Forever Bill’
Quinn wants to economize. Parochial pols and labor lobbyists say no. Lawmakers, kill this.
March 27, 2012
The overwhelming burden of public pension and Medicaid costs has converted
Pat Quinn to an ever more urgent agenda: His proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 seeks to cut spending by shuttering some 60 facilities and offices statewide.
But no good deed goes unpunished: Rather than encouraging Quinn, state senators are expected to vote Wednesday or Thursday on a terrible bill that would forbid the closing of any state facility until both houses of the General Assembly agree to do so. What a perfect way for the legislative branch to keep the executive branch from responding to budgetary or other needs by closing institutions the state no longer needs. The bill would empower legislators to join in cabals to preserve unnecessary spending: I’ll vote to protect the institution in your district if you’ll vote to protect the one in mine.
If you want Illinois to start paying its billions in overdue bills, or if you’d like to see the state spend more on schools or anything else, realize the stakes here: Illinois is insolvent. And one big reason is that state government has more infrastructure than it needs or can afford. Yet as Quinn tries to reduce overhead, some lawmakers are desperate to thwart him. If you want state government to start freeing up resources for other priorities, tell your senator to kill Senate Bill 3564.
Tony Paulauski, executive director of the Arc of Illinois, an advocacy group seeking to relocate people with disabilities from state institutions to community settings, synthesized the bill’s effect for us Monday: “It would make the closing of any state institution virtually impossible.”
That would be bad government, but it’s tempting politics in an election year. The Senate sponsor, Democrat Gary Forby, wants to preserve the supermax Tamms prison and its 300 jobs in his far downstate district. And Forby, who’s facing a tough general election fight, isn’t the only lawmaker who sees the state budget primarily as an employment program for his or her constituents.
Forby’s bill has cleared a committee and awaits this week’s anticipated action in the full Senate; a companion measure is expected in the House. Public employees unions expect House and Senate Democrats in particular to toe the line and protect their members from Democrat Quinn’s proposed closures. Some in Springfield are referring to the measure by a practical nickname: “The AFSCME Bill,” for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union with the most state workers. We’d call it “The Keep-Spending-Forever Bill.”
Not that current law lets Quinn cavalierly close an institution: The three-step process requires a governor to file notice of a proposed closure with the state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. COGFA, as it’s known, oversees a 30-day public comment period and can hold public hearings. Within 50 days of the governor’s proposal, COGFA issues an advisory opinion. A governor can’t close an institution until the process has run its course.
Allowing legislators to preen for the home folks by pre-empting closures oversteps — perhaps unconstitutionally — a governor’s responsibility to manage the state’s budget and agencies.