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Closer Look: Quinn's budget holds a few surprises

Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP)
This Feb. 24, 2012, file photo shows the exterior of the Illinois Youth Center in Joliet. Much of the focus of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's election-year budget address March 26, 2014, was on his proposal to make Illinois' temporary income tax permanent in order to avert cuts to education and other areas. But buried in the 514-page blueprint released by the governor's office Wednesday are several other less publicized proposals, which reveal his priorities in the year ahead. One of the proposals is to re-open the shuttered Illinois Youth Center and another youth correction facility in Murphysboro.
Caption
(AP)
In this March 21, 2014 photo, Palatine Rural Fire Department Chief Hank Clemmensen walks away from a truck after it returned from a call. Much of the focus of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's election-year budget address March 26, 2014, was on his proposal to make Illinois' temporary income tax permanent in order to avert cuts to education and other areas. But buried in the 514-page blueprint released by the governor's office are several other less publicized proposals, which reveal his priorities in the year ahead. One proposal is an increase for the loan program to help local fire departments buy trucks.
Caption
(AP)
This Sept. 8, 2011, file photo shows the Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro. The southern Illinois juvenile prison, which was closed for cost-cutting reasons, may be reopened as an adult lockup for drunk driving offenders. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced the proposal in his budget blueprint unveiled Wednesday.

SPRINGFIELD (AP) – Much of the focus of Gov. Pat Quinn's election-year budget address was on his proposal to make Illinois' temporary income tax permanent in order to avert cuts to education and other areas.

But buried in the 514-page blueprint released by the governor's office Wednesday are several other less-publicized proposals revealing his priorities in the year ahead. Quinn proposes to wipe out funding for an anti-violence program, reopen two shuttered corrections facilities, and boost funding to his own office, among other plans.

"The devil is in the details," state Rep. Bob Pritchard, the House minority spokesman on education, said following the speech. The Republican from Hinckley said he "liked the governor's priorities" but objected to keeping the state's temporary income tax increase in place to pay for the $36.8 billion spending plan, which makes few new cuts.

While lawmakers are not required to listen to Quinn's suggestion, the governor's budget address sets the tone for the budget negotiations that will continue during the spring session.

Democrats, who have supermajority control in both chambers, have an added incentive to maintain a unified front on the budget plan as they look ahead to key November matchups, including the governor's race.

Republicans are vowing to fight Quinn's plan to permanently enact a 67 percent tax increase that originally was promised to be temporary.

Here are some of the key components of the plan:

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Quinn's budget suggests repurposing two recently closed youth correctional centers as adult lockups to address "current corrections needs," assistant budget director Abdon Pallasch said.

The Murphysboro youth center, which closed two years ago, could serve as a facility minimum security facility for more than 400 drunken driving offenders, according to the governor's office. Pallasch described the facility as a "first of its kind dedicated state alcohol addiction treatment facility" that would "operate on a system of restorative justice, allowing offenders to go back to the community and promote community service."

The Murphysboro facility would operate as a satellite within either the Pinckneyville or Menard correctional centers.

The Joliet Youth home, which closed last February, also would be repurposed, according to governor's budget office documents.

Pallasch said the facility would be used for some of the Department of Corrections' 4,600 inmates classified as "seriously mentally ill."

The Youth Center, he said, already meets the security level needs for the types of offenders that would be housed there, Pallasch said.

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Quinn also has suggested zeroing out funding for the Community Based Organizations for Violence Prevention program, which succeeded the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which has received $15 million over the past two years.

A late February audit said the NRI program was so hastily organized and sloppily executed that auditors questioned 40 percent of expenditures claimed by service providers.

State Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Senate appropriations committee chair who has been critical of the handling of the program, said he personally got a call from the governor's office to be informed that the program was getting cut.

"They responded to the concerns we had about the program," Kotowski said. "It's obvious it wasn't working."

In an emailed statement, Pallasch said that "not every program gets funded every year. This year, we're focusing investments in afterschool programs and early childhood education.

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The governor's office of management and budget would see a 30 percent budget increase under Quinn's plan, as it adds seven positions. Pallasch said the increase "comes from the addition of a new requirement that would audit state grants and is housed in the governor's office."

But that "requirement" is a bill sponsored by state Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates that hasn't yet been passed by the Legislature.

The legislation, which was approved by a House committee last week, would require state grants to be monitored and audited by the same federal guidelines that federal grants are.

Crespo cited recent abuses of state grants, including the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, to the Associated Press, as reason to push the legislation.

"You look at millions and millions of dollars that go down the drain because no one is keeping an eye on these things," he said. "Abuses that we're seeing in the paper are the tip of the iceberg."

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The Office of the State Fire Marshal is getting a 28 percent boost, to $40.7 million, largely because of an $8 million increase to help local fire departments buy trucks, spokeswoman Milly Santiago said.

The 10-year-old Fire Truck Revolving Loan Fund provides no-interest loans of up to $250,000 to fire departments to buy fire trucks. The departments must repay the principal at a rate of at least 5 percent a year for 20 years. Since 2007, the program has been supplemented with $7.50 from each fine on a serious traffic violation.

"The increase for the loan program is because there is more cash in the fund," Pallasch said.

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Online

Illinois state budget: http://1.usa.gov/1iBqtwJ

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Follow Kerry Lester on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kerrylester and John O'Connor at http://twitter.com/apoconnor

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