SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed giving $8.3 million to the life skills re-entry center in Murphysboro under his fiscal year 2019 budget plan, a jumpstart for a facility that will help jailed offenders get back to work.
“Some 28,000 offenders are released into our communities each year,” Rauner told lawmakers on Wednesday in his annual budget address. “Nearly half return to prison within three years. The rates of recidivism are too high. Jobs are a key antidote.”
The former youth center is reopening after being closed in 2012. Inmates with three years or less remaining on their sentences can apply to be transferred to the center if they’ve had a clean record while locked up.
The governor’s proposed budget requires local school districts and state colleges and universities to pick up a greater percentage of their teacher retirement costs, shifting the burden of funding pensions away from the state. Rauner said the reforms are necessary to balance the budget and make Illinois “an economic powerhouse of the Midwest.” He also proposed cutting health insurance benefits for state workers.
Rauner told lawmakers that the plan would amount to a $1 billion tax cut.
“The people of Illinois are taxed out,” he said.
But it’s not clear whether local governments would have to raise property taxes to offset their new expenses under the governor’s proposal.
Nonetheless, State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said the governor’s proposal was a starting point for budget negotiations, with “tools to work going forward.”
“There were some positive things for Southern Illinois, in particular the $26 million that will go specifically to Murphysboro and Kewanee,” Bryant said. Kewanee, in Henry Country in northern Illinois, also has a life skills-entry center.
Bryant was an advocate for re-opening the Murphysboro facility.
“It’s very encouraging to know that money is not only in this year’s fiscal budget but is also proposed for next year’s,” Bryant said.
State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, said the facility is an important economic driver for Jackson County. “There is a new class of corrections employees that are being trained to work in that facility,” he said. “I was very happy to hear the governor talk about the success of those facilities.”
The address is the first since a budget deal last year that ended a two-year stalemate.
The governor proposed $181 million in funding for Southern Illinois University Carbondale, about the same as the current fiscal year. That’s down from $201 million the university received in fiscal year 2017.