Gov. Pat Quinn prepared Tuesday to deliver an Illinois budget proposal stuffed with grim news, including closing two prisons and 12 other state facilities, slashing Medicaid by $2.7 billion and cutting spending at most state agencies.
The facilities Quinn wants to close include the supermax prison at Tamms, a maximum security prison for women at Dwight and six halfway houses for inmates nearing release, aides said. Quinn will also call for closing two juvenile prisons, four mental institutions and more than 20 smaller facilities scattered across Illinois.
"Everybody in the state is going to be affected by this downsizing of state government,'' Quinn's budget director, David Vaught, told reporters at a briefing Tuesday evening.
Underscoring the difficulty of solving the state's financial problems, aides acknowledged Quinn will not offer detailed proposals for cutting Medicaid and pension costs, two huge expenses that he has said must be brought under control. Instead, Quinn will work with lawmakers and outside groups to "frame this up" and produce solutions everyone can support, said Quinn adviser Jerome Stermer.
Quinn was set to present his budget Wednesday in a speech to a joint session of the General Assembly. But early word of some of his plans instantly drew criticism.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees objected to the idea of closing facilities and laying off workers, saying the real solution is to end tax "giveaways'' to businesses and the wealthy.
"Budget cuts have gone too far already, harming priorities like public safety and care for the most vulnerable. Further devastating cuts to public services and jobs are the worst possible approach to what ails our state,'' said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall.
Quinn also has suggested that all schools should share the cost of providing pensions for their employees, something that only Chicago schools do now. Several legislators condemned the idea, saying schools can't absorb those costs without hurting education or taxpayers.
`You're either going to lose teachers or have a massive property tax increase,'' said Rep. Ed Sullivan, R-Mundelein.
In recent weeks, Quinn warned that most state agencies will see cuts of 9 percent, and he challenged other statewide officials to make similar cuts to their own budgets.
He also said Illinois must reduce the fast-growing price of health care for the poor and slow the annual growth in government pension contributions -- extraordinarily complex issues that are likely to draw fire from all directions.
Medicaid costs could be controlled by reducing services, restricting eligibility and cutting payments to doctors and hospitals. Pension options include lowering the amount state government is required to contribute each year, cutting benefits for current employees and requiring workers to pay more into their retirement funds.
But Quinn's speech Wednesday will be limited to discussing those options in general terms and won't include specific plans, aides said.
All this comes after years of belt-tightening and a 67 percent increase in state income taxes. Despite those moves, the state's expenses continue to overwhelm revenues. The administration expects revenues to climb $729 million in the upcoming fiscal year, but pension contributions alone are going up by $1 billion, soaking up all the new money available.
"This is the toughest budget we've ever faced,'' said Quinn's chief of staff, Jack Lavin.
A governor's budget proposal can be significantly changed by lawmakers, which happened last year when legislators felt he wanted to spend too much. The idea of closing prisons and mental institutions is likely to be particularly unpopular with the General Assembly.
Illinois prisons are already severely overcrowded. In November, 48,620 people were squeezed into space designed for 33,700. The Corrections Department has begun counting areas like gymnasiums when calculating the space available for housing inmates.
Closing facilities would further complicate the situation. The two prisons and six "adult transition centers'' on Quinn's list house 2,648 inmates.
The other facilities Quinn will propose closing are mental institutions in Rockford and Centralia and juvenile prisons in Joliet and Murphysboro. He had already announced closures of mental institutions in Jacksonville and Tinley Park.
Quinn has promised a little good news in his budget. He wants to eliminate a tax on natural gas and give tax breaks to families with children and businesses that hire military veterans. His office says he'll also propose chipping away at the state's vast backlog of unpaid bills.
Those costs would be offset by scouring the state's tax code to find loopholes that don't help the economy and can be eliminated, said Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson.
One of the few areas where Quinn wants to increase spending is education. Anderson said he will propose a $90 million increase, or about 1 percent, to help early childhood programs and college scholarships.
Impact of Closing Two Prisons, 12 Other State Facilities
Gov. Pat Quinn says closing 14 state facilities -- juvenile prisons, adult transition centers and the state's supermax prison -- along with 1,100 state employee layoffs will save more than $100 million in this year's proposed budget.
Here's a look at those facilities, the number of employees, inmates who will have to be moved and proposed cost savings: