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QUINN TAMMS

The Tamms Correctional Center is shown in this photo from May 3, 2011. (The Southern File Photo)

Paul Newton

SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Pat Quinn will lay out a potentially painful budget scenario Wednesday that includes the closure of 14 state facilities and a reshaping of how many state agencies operate in downstate Illinois.

The governor, wrestling with rising Medicaid and employee pension costs, wants to close the Tamms Correctional Center in Southern Illinois and the state's maximum-security prison for women in Dwight, as well as six adult inmate transition centers, including facilities in Carbondale and Decatur.

Other facilities in the cross-hairs include the youth prison in Murphysboro, a center for residents with developmental disabilities in Centralia and a psychiatric hospital in Rockford.

The Chicago Democrat also wants to consolidate 24 county-level offices of the Department of Human Services and shutter 16 Illinois State Police communication centers.

The number of jobs expected to be cut through the closures could top 2,000, but growth in other agencies is expected to keep total personnel cuts to around 750 workers in the coming fiscal year.

"Everybody in the state is going to be affected by these closures," said Quinn budget chief David Vaught.

The call for closures comes despite a projected $720 million rise in state revenue in the fiscal year beginning July 1, thanks to a slowly improving economy and a 67 percent boost in the state income tax.

Vaught that gain will be eaten up by increased costs for health care programs for poor people, as well as rising employee retirement costs.

But, Quinn won't be outlining a solution to those costs during his Wednesday address. Rather, he will ask lawmakers to come to the negotiating table to hammer out a compromise.

"We clearly need to work together," said Quinn senior advisor Jerry Stermer.

In addition to the closures, the $33.7 billion spending plan pares costs at state agencies by an average of about 9 percent.

Even before Quinn's annual address, lawmakers were girding for a fight.

"I'm going to raise Cain. I'm going to fight for my district," said state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, whose district includes the Tamms prison and its 293 jobs.

State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said he would work with local officials to keep the two Jackson County facilities open.

"Remember this is only a proposed announcement, but this is the second time in less than a year that Governor Quinn has gone after Murphysboro," Luechtefeld said.

Along with fighting to hold on to state jobs within their districts, many lawmakers believe it makes no sense to close adult prison facilities until Quinn addresses overcrowding within the system. Since ending a botched early prisoner release program in 2009, Quinn has seen inmate numbers balloon to more than 48,600 prisoners in an adult system designed to hold 33,700.

The General Assembly stopped Quinn's attempt last year to close a medium-security prison in Lincoln, as well as the youth prison in Murphysboro and mental institutions in Rockford, Chester and Dixon. He continues to push for the closure of a developmental center in Jacksonville and a psychiatric hospital in Tinley Park.

In the case of Tamms, maximum-security prisoners will be moved to the Pontiac Correctional Center, while minimum-security inmates will be transferred to prisons in Vienna. Vaught said its location in deep southern Illinois played a role in Quinn's decision to close it.

"It's a long way from Chicago," Vaught said.

Inmates at the transition centers will be sent home and monitored with electronic ankle bracelets.

kurt.erickson@lee.net / 217-782-4043

 

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