Tuesday, November 29, 2011
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Saved! Budget deal will keep Logan open

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[November 29, 2011]  SPRINGFIELD (AP) -- Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative leaders agreed Monday to cancel plans for closing state facilities and cutting nearly 2,000 jobs, instead taking money from elsewhere in the state budget, including about $100 million originally earmarked for education.

If the agreement is approved by lawmakers, it would save Logan Correctional, a center for juvenile offenders and centers for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder said he was notified of the impending deal by state Sen. Larry Bomke late Monday evening. The mayor was obviously elated by the news.

"What great news for the Logan CC families and for all of Lincoln and Logan County! Thank you all so much for all of your extraordinary efforts! We now have much to celebrate this holiday season! This news will just extend our Thanksgiving season a bit longer," he said. 

Quinn's budget director, David Vaught, stressed that the plan will not increase overall state spending. Instead, it moves money around within the budget.

"By pushing spending down over here, we're able to use that money over there for different purposes," Vaught told The Associated Press.

Aides to House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, the top Democrats in the Illinois Legislature, confirmed the agreement but said they had few details.

The spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said Republicans object to the way Democrats have handled the state budget but felt they had to reach some arrangement to avoid closing valuable state facilities.

"We were concerned about chaos from closing the facilities without a thoughtful plan," said spokeswoman Patty Schuh. "In order to avoid that, we were able to put together a reallocation agreement."

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees welcomed the news.

"While we have not seen the details of the agreement announced tonight, we believe it is a positive step toward saving jobs and averting harmful cuts to health care, prisons and more," said Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31.

Lawmakers could begin voting on the agreement as soon as Tuesday.

Quinn announced months ago that without legislative action he would be forced to close the facilities and cut jobs. The Democrat said lawmakers hadn't given him enough money to keep all of state government running for a full year.

Republican lawmakers complained that Quinn seemed to be targeting facilities in their districts. State employees said their jobs were being cut and important services endangered, even though the state's budget problems lay in other areas.

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Quinn used his veto powers to cut spending in several areas, including money for school transportation services and for regional education superintendents around the state. Vaught said lawmakers have now agreed to take that vetoed money and use it to avoid the closures and layoffs.

The agreement would keep the facilities open only for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Their long-term fates are still being reviewed, Vaught said.

Vaught said the agreement also calls for reducing state payments to a variety of special-purpose funds. The state's $55 million contribution to the workers' compensation fund, for instance, would be cut by $10 million. About $95 million that ordinarily would go to pension systems would instead be diverted to preventing the closures.

There would be enough reductions that some services in the Department of Human Services could get some additional money, Vaught said. The biggest beneficiaries would be community mental health services, which would get $30 million, and substance abuse programs, which would get $28 million.

[Associated Press; LDN]

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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