CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois state lawmakers vowed Wednesday to fight Gov. Pat Quinn’s expected closures of three state facilities in the region.
State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said the General Assembly could override Quinn’s line-item vetoes of funding for Tamms Correctional Center in Alexander County, Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro and Southern Illinois Adult Transition Center in Carbondale.
State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said he’s going to work on getting support for a budget veto override.
However, state Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said lawmakers may not be able to get around Quinn’s power over state spending and the Aug. 31 closure dates for those facilities and others.
Bost said just because lawmakers may override the spending cuts, it doesn’t mean Quinn has to fund the facilities. The governor could simply sit on the money in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
More important may be the timing of the closures, which would come months before the General Assembly’s scheduled November veto session.
Bost said he doubts the facilities would be reopened if they are shuttered.
Emergency sessions could be called by state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, but Bost said there may not be support from other lawmakers.
The next move?
Senate Democratic Caucus Deputy Press Secretary Ron Holmes said Cullerton is open to taking action, but a couple things have to happen.
“Any action that we take would have to depend upon what the governor decides to do,” Holmes said. “We’re going to continue talking to Sen. Forby and our legislative team to see what our options are.”
House Democratic Press Secretary Steve Brown said a supermajority of three-fifths of the General Assembly would be necessary to do anything meaningful, and the state has other pressing issues, such as pension reform.
Brown said he didn’t think lawmakers in other parts of the state were as concerned about the closures as their central and Southern Illinois counterparts.
Still, Brown said, Madigan will listen.
“I’m sure the speaker would be happy to work with all the legislators, including Mike Bost if he’s lucid again,” Brown said.
If a special session doesn’t happen, Bost said it leaves one option.
“How this can be cured is in (Quinn’s) hands,” Bost said. “He signs the legislation in its entirety how it was passed.”
The General Assembly sent Quinn a $33.7 billion budget plan with money to operate the facilities.
Southern Illinois state lawmakers, including state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said Quinn went back on his word after legislators traded votes on some issues in exchange for funds for the facilities.
The region’s state legislators were fighting mad Wednesday at a rally outside Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon’s Carbondale offices.
Phelps said he’s ready to pull his support from Quinn for the November elections if the governor goes through with the closures.
“We’re never going to forget this, but (Quinn has) the opportunity to get this right,” he said.
Although unpopular in Southern Illinois, Quinn’s budget office said the closures in Tamms, Murphysboro and Carbondale are necessary and justified because of low occupancy and high expense.
“Overall, these closures will allow the state to better live within our means and address the state's most pressing needs,” Quinn spokeswoman Kelly Kraft wrote in an email.
On Twitter: @DW_Norris_SI