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Quinn can’t just talk about closings

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SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is going to have to do more than talk when it comes to closing a prison, or a state hospital or another state facility to "manage the budget."

By Benjamin Yount

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is going to have to do more than talk when it comes to closing a prison, or a state hospital or another state facility to "manage the budget."

The state State Facilities Closure Act sets out several requirements Quinn must meet before he can shutter a state facility.

Quinn on Tuesday refused to specify which facilities may be closed, saying only, "We'll be talking about that later."

Once Quinn announces what he plans to cut, the State Facilities Closure Act kicks in. He must file an official notice with the Legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, or COGFA, within two days.

If Quinn targets a prison, school, developmental center or a residential center owned by the state Department of Veterans Affairs, the governor also must submit a plan that details how he will close the facility within 30 days.

Once the governor submits this plan, COGFA will hold at least one public hearing and a 30-day "public comment period."

After the public hearings and public comment time ends, COGFA then votes on the governor's recommendation.

It's unclear if that vote would prevent the governor from acting.

"You would hear strong arguments on both sides," said COGFA's revenue manager Jim Muschinske.

State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said he doubts COGFA will even have to act.

"The governor, first of all, is in a contractual agreement not to lay anybody off till the end of next year. It's doubtful any court would rule the governor was right to (order layoffs)," said Bomke. "Then he has the General Assembly to deal with."

Lawmakers are quick to fight to keep prisons, hospitals, veterans' homes and other state facilities in their districts open. It's one of the few bipartisan issues in Springfield.

"I've got the hospital in Anna, I've got five prisons, and Pickneyville (Correctional Center) is just next door," said state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton. "I've got as many state facilities as anyone."

Forby said he's called the governor's office to stop any kind of closing in his southern Illinois area, but he hasn't gotten a response.

"They always come downstate when they want to close something," Forby added.

But it is far from certain that anything will close. Quinn maintains he needs to close something and layoff workers because the Legislature shortchanged him with a $33.2 billion state budget. Quinn on Tuesday said lawmakers could always give him more.

"If they want to make adjustments on their decisions of the spring, I'm willing to negotiate," the governor said.

Bomke and Forby agreed that the governor wants a supplemental appropriation and does not to close a prison, or a hospital or a veterans' home.

But Forby said Illinois may soon have no choice.

"I'm convinced that the state of Illinois is out of money," Forby said. "And something is going to be closed eventually."

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