Take fresh look at spending
It appears likely that Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal to close several state facilities, if he succeeds, will run into some logistical issues.
For example, it’s been reported the past several days that the closing of the Dwight Correctional Center also will end that institution’s sewing operation. The prison produces tens of thousands of blue shirts and blue pants each year for Illinois prisoners. Department of Corrections officials say those operations will be absorbed by other sewing operations in the system, including the Decatur Correctional Center. But there’s skepticism that the other facilities will be able to keep up.
Over the weekend, it was revealed by Springfield Bureau Chief Kurt Erickson that the department has plans to move at least some prisoners from the soon-to-be-closed Tamms supermaximum facility to other states. Corrections officials said such prisoner exchanges are normal procedure and don’t cost the state additional funds because Illinois also houses prisoners for other states. Others have complained that the closing of Tamms and transferring its dangerous prisoners to other facilities will make all prisons more dangerous for employees and inmates.
Whether those concerns are justified remain to be seen. But the impression that the governor is closing facilities without carefully examining all of the ramifications has merit.
However, it’s not totally the fault of Quinn and his staff.
The fact is that the state budget is a mess, financially and organizationally. There are few folks who understand the complexities of the budget and where all the money goes; perhaps no one does.
Despite the state’s well-documented financial problems, the General Assembly and governor’s office have never undertaken the task of compiling a budget that is easy to understand.
During recent elections, many state politicians have called for an “audit” of the state’s expenses. The reasoning was that if the time were taken to go through all of the state’s expenses, savings would be discovered.
Other states have undergone similar exercises and found ways to save money. But this idea, which has merit, was apparently just something to say on the campaign trail.
No one should be naive enough to believe eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse” will magically balance the state’s budget. The financial problems are too complicated for that to be the only solution. But an honest, comprehensive look at spending could give legislators a blueprint for how to save money that may not affect as many of the services provided by the state.
The state needs a better way to track its expenses, which will lead to better budgeting. It’s telling that after nearly a decade of serious financial issues, no one in a leadership position has made this happen. The only conclusion is that our elected officials prefer this method because it’s easier to spend money outside of public scrutiny.
It may work for the politicians, but it’s not a proper way to run a government.