Well, the IL General Assembly Fall Veto Session is finally over! IL legislators tonight completed Governor Pat Quinn’s job and by reallocating the money in the IL current state budget they worked out a deal to avoid Quinn’s threatened shut-down for seven state facilities and the proposed lay-offs of over 1900 state employees. They also reinstated some funding for mental health and even came up with funds to pay for indigent burials!

Legislators also, fortunately, left Springfield without approving the unwarranted tax breaks for Sears and the Chicago Merchantile Exchange. Too bad that state legislators felt that they had to devote most of this one last day to considering whether or not to give these corporations the tax breaks they are demanding in return for remaining in IL. In the end only 8 legislators voted in favor of tax breaks, so we will see if Sears and CME flee the state or not.

Now, legislators are far from having addressed the serious fiscal problems which the state faces. Averting state closures now is still a temporary fix. Funding will only cover the state budget thru June 2011. We can certainly anticipate a lot more discussion about the state having to close facilities and cut additional staff in 2012. We just hope that Governor Pat Quinn doesn’t again create more chaos and waste everyone’s time and more state money by coming up with another hasty list of “must-do” state closures:

Written by Koehler Staff Tuesday, 29 November 2011 19:31, from IL Senator Koehler’s website:

Springfield – Late Tuesday evening, the General Assembly took action to partially restore human services funding, avert state facility closings, and prevent mass layoffs. They achieved these goals by reprioritizing state spending—not spending additional taxpayer dollars.

“This action is good news for people throughout the state of Illinois, particularly for the families of the mentally ill and developmentally disabled,” said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). “During the holiday season, no one wants to worry about finding care for a loved one or the possibility of getting laid off.”

After Governor Quinn approved the General Assembly’s budget last summer, he claimed that he did not have adequate funding to keep all of the state’s mental health and developmental disability centers open. He threatened to close seven state-run buildings throughout the state. This legislation, Senate Bill 2412, allows the facilities to remain operational for the rest of the fiscal year.

It also partially restores funding for mental health grants that go to local mental health centers, alcoholism and substance abuse programs, burial services for the homeless and very poor, homelessness prevention programs, and need-based financial aid for college students.

To pay for these restorations, the General Assembly sustained many of the governor’s budget-related vetoes, shifted money from other state funds, and reduced a number of lower-priority grants.

“I think this budget more closely reflects our state’s priorities,” Koehler said. “It helps protect the people who are least able to protect themselves. And, while I will admit that we may need to explore facility closures in the future, we need to make sure we plan ahead and transfer mental health patients and developmentally disabled people into safe situations. Closing their facilities without a plan in place could result in unreasonable hardship for these people and their families.”

“I think this is the way budgeting should work,” Koehler added. “We set our priorities, re-examined the budget, and then lowered spending in some areas to allow us to pay more in others.”

7 state facilities getting short-term reprieves

Quinn, legislators work out deal to keep Tinley Park Mental Health Center, 6 other sites open through June

(Chicago Tribune article)

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