SPRINGFIELD — Two Republican lawmakers are throwing their support behind a Democratic proposal aimed at blocking Gov. Pat Quinn from closing large state facilities.
Republican state Sens. John Jones of Mount Vernon and Shane Cultra of Onarga said Wednesday they will back state Sen. Gary Forby’s legislation that would give members of the General Assembly a voice in decisions to close state facilities.
The trio represent areas that include prisons and other large institutions being targeted for closure by Quinn as part of his budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The facilities include Tamms Correctional Center, Dwight Correctional Center, the youth prison in Murphysboro, Murray Developmental Center in Centralia and several other large institutions.
Cultra and Jones had attempted to derail facility closures within their districts by pushing legislation that would require the state to conduct a four- or five-year planning process to review which state institutions should be shuttered.
That idea, which also was floated in 2008 in response to a threat to close Pontiac Correctional Center, would give local communities and state workers time to prepare for the economic changes that might occur if a prison or other large facility closes.
The two Republicans said Wednesday they were backing Forby’s anti-closure idea because their own proposal wasn’t expected to advance in the spring legislative session.
Under current law, the governor makes recommendations on state closures to the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. The commission then makes a non-binding recommendation on whether the state closures should go forward.
Forby’s proposal would give lawmakers the right to accept or reject the commission’s recommendation. The governor would not be able to overrule the decision.
The measure was forwarded to the full Senate last week and could be called for a vote later this month.
“I think the General Assembly should have some say,” said Jones.
Cultra said the state should still investigate implementing some kind of long-term facility closure plan in order to avoid the upheaval created when a governor seeks to reduce spending.
“It devastates communities,” Cultra said. “It only makes sense to have a facilities plan.”