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November 2011 Newsletter

COGFA Hearings on Governor’s Proposed Closures

Last month I wrote about the efforts by Governor Quinn to close seven state facilities – two for the developmentally disabled, three for the mentally ill and two prisons. I have since traveled the state from north to south and east to west to tour these facilities and heard from literally hundreds of witnesses who will be impacted by the proposed closures.

Closing state facilities is never easy.  It means a significant loss for those who rely on the housing and services provided in the facility.  Those who are receiving services, or have a loved one who is, may now have to travel much longer distances to a different city.  And the employees can potentially lose their livelihood.  To say these are painful decisions is an understatement.

As I went through this process, I thought a lot about what has happened in the private sector over the last few years.  Businesses have had to make decisions about closing offices or plants and laying off employees.  Mostly in an effort to bring costs under control in order to allow the business to continue – albeit at a reduced size.  The State of Illinois is facing the same kinds of decisions.

I am one of 12 legislators serving on the Commission which is charged with issuing an advisory opinion to the Governor on whether we agree with the facilities closures he has proposed.   While I don’t want to see state employees lose their jobs, our prisons become even more overcrowded or the mentally ill go without services, if we don’t start cutting back on some things now, we will be back in a deep hole that will necessitate even more drastic cuts in the not too distant future.

I struggled with whether there are cuts we can make elsewhere.  While the answer is probably “yes”, there is no other plan on the table right now, so I elected to support the plan proposed by Governor.   But I was in the minority.

At this juncture, I don’t know whether the Governor will elect to proceed with the closures.  There is a proposed fix to get us through this fiscal year.  But we are already projecting a large budget deficit for next year and so these same proposals will undoubtedly resurface.

You have my pledge to continue working toward solutions to our budget problems rather than simply saying no to everything because it involves some pain.  Wish me luck!

 

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