Lawmakers propose moratorium on prison closures
to quit playing games with "roving prison closures" and end the
current environment of political gamesmanship that surrounds prison
site decisions, a group of Illinois lawmakers say.
During a Capitol news conference Thursday, senators and state
representatives -- including Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson,
R-Greenville, and state Sens. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, and Dan
Rutherford, R-Pontiac -- called for a comprehensive review of
Illinois' correctional facilities before any decisions are made
In early February, Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced intentions to
close the maximum security unit at the Stateville Correctional
Center in Joliet. However, on May 5, Department of Corrections
representatives revealed that the Stateville unit will remain open
and instead they would close the Pontiac Correctional Center.
"The prison closure announcements have come out of thin air,"
said Rutherford. "There have never been any formal policies or
economic studies that have ever occurred before a closure
announcement. We want the current and future governors to have
formal plans before any facility closure takes place."
Transportation expert Risinger wants to protect road funds
While the state's roads and bridges continue to crumble, the
money intended for repairs and new projects continues to be drained
away for programs and services that have nothing to do with
State Sen. Dale Risinger, a former district engineer with the
Illinois Department of Transportation, says that in just six years,
Road Fund diversions have topped $4 billion. Risinger, during a
Capitol news conference Thursday, outlined how diversions have
doubled since Blagojevich took office, from $2.2 billion to $4.2
Risinger said it's time to end new diversions, which use road
construction dollars for non-road purposes. Risinger had earlier
called for much-need funds to deal with higher-than-normal costs
from this winter. On Friday, the Peoria Journal Star editorialized
in favor of providing those highway repair dollars.
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Watson receives word on conservation district funds
It's official: The Blagojevich administration will release funds
promised to the state's soil and water conservation districts, as
well as to the state's Extension services.
Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson received a personal
assurance Thursday from the governor and his budget director that
the funding, which was included in the current year's state budget
but never released by the administration, will now finally be
Last year, the administration sought to significantly reduce
funding for soil and water conservation districts, and during budget
negotiations, Senate Republicans were able to restore $2.4 million
to the agencies.
About $18 million in state funding is also heading to the
University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, according to the state
comptroller. The comptroller's office announced they received the
required payment vouchers from the Illinois Department of
Agriculture for the Extension funding, and checks are being issued.
Pay hike talk prompts more Democratic infighting
A week after Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, told
reporters he needs a pay raise, the proposal is prompting more
infighting among the state's ever-feuding Democrats. According to
published reports, a top Jones lieutenant -- and Jones himself --
took after fellow Democrats who opposed the pay hike.
It's no secret that state government is in dire financial shape,
given a $750 million hole in the current budget, more than $2
billion in overdue bills and billions of dollars in pension debt
that will come do in future years. The Alton Telegraph weighs in and
is critical of how the governor is managing taxpayer dollars.
[Text from file received from Frank
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