There are only three days left in the IL General Assembly Veto Session for 2011. Legislators are working behind the scenes now to prepare for when they return on November 8, 2011. At least one issue; the gambling expansion, seems to be stymied. Although a bill has been drawn up to dumb down the proposed expansion in state-wide gambling in order to address Governor Pat Quinn’s concerns, the absence of slots at racetracks will probably doom the passage of gambling expansion. Quinn claims that racetrack owners will be willing to accept a subsidy in lieu of slots, but it is clear that this is not the case. This result of no compromise will be to kill any gambling expansion, and may be the one Pat Quinn intended from the first by proposing extensive changes to the bill the legislature originally proposed.

Non-action on gambling may free up some consideration time for other issues. The biggest public concern remaining is what will happen to the seven state facilities which Governor Pat Quinn has targeted for closures beginning December 31, 2011, due to “lack of money” to operate them. There have been public hearings state-wide for each of the facilities and a lot of public outrage expressed to the state and to legislators over the haphazard way in which Governor Quinn selected these facilities for closure. Many legislators accuse Quinn of playing partisan politics by selecting mostly downstate facilities located in mostly Republican districts  to close. Critics point out that the Quinn administrations claims of the monetary savings realized by closing these facilities are over-stated and do not include the costs the state will incur having to make alternative placement and treatment plans for the thousands of individuals the facilities presently provide services for. Plenty of people regard Quinn’s initial proposal to close these facilities as a political ploy to try to push the legislature to still try to get his own way and make them agree to borrow more money to cover state budget deficits as he initially proposed at the start of the year. Quinn was hoping to turn public outrage and a time deadline against the legislators as pressure to approve borrowing.

So far, this appears to have backfired against Quinn. There has been plenty of outrage, but so far, most of it is directed at Quinn for using the public as a pawn in his disagreement with the legislature. Legislators are distancing themselves from Quinn and attempting to work around him to come up with the funds needed to operate each of these facilities, for at least the short-term. While everyone admits that some state facility closures may be necessary down the road, no body likes the manner in which Quinn came up with his short list without much input and consideration from others. It is generally agreed that such closures should come only after much discussion and after all other more reasonable attempts to save money are made by the state. That may happen next year or the year after. For now, both sides of the legislature are trying to come up with money to avoid the closures. Quinn vetoed $376 million from the budget sent to him this year by the General Assembly. Instead of looking to override Quinn’s veto, legislators are instead doing Quinn’s job and looking to possibly use those funds to cover the shortfalls in operating the seven state facilities through sometime next year: (Click on each red link to read each of the articles below)

Quinn’s $376 million budget veto likely to be spent elsewhere

We believe that state legislators will be able to pull together enough funding to cover the budget shortage for these facilities and avoid the accompanying layoffs, simply because they know they have little choice. Yet there are other complications which will be unpopular. The money they are looking to use are basically just delayed Medicaid payments into next fiscal year and vetoed school transportation funds. Using this money elsewhere will cost the state a big federal Medicaid match and not be like downstate.

Quinn’s administrative staff is supposedly helping the legislators review the funding sources and figures, but Quinn himself is becoming more outspoken in criticizing the legislature lately and this is not helping his relationship with the legislature and their regard for him:

Quinn says he’s no pal of lawmakers

Quinn earlier indicated that he would work with legislators to try to avoid the prison closures if possible. This appears to have been a PR statement on his part, in early October, when he felt hopeful that he could bring public pressure to bear against them. Now that his power is pretty empty, he has to follow through on his words:

Quinn would consider keeping prison open

Nevertheless, the hasty planning in the closures proposal has become evident in the past month. At least one planned closure plan, for Logan is now being redrawn since the impracticalities in it would make it impossible to implement:

Logan closure plan altered, more prison crowding looms

Quinn’s closure plans are clearly premature and drastic; his putting the horse before the cart. It was only a year or so ago that Quinn made a big display about soliciting the public and state workers to submit information and suggestions to a state website about ways in which the state could save money. Now, Quinn is in the position of having started a cutting process which he may not be able to demonstrate is in fact necessary since he can’t show that these suggestions and other options have been thoroughly explored. The following item appeared just the other day. The question is how many other ways for the state to save money has Quinn tried up to now, and will the state suddenly take up more of these options?

Zipcars to be available for traveling state employees

While the biggest number of layoffs remain in the future, a small number of them are already beginning. Quinn will now be in the position to receive the backlash from these layoffs coming at a time when the economy is still poor and the holiday season is beginning:

Two dozen state workers to get pink slips

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