REMEMBERING 9/11 VICTIMS, THANKING THOSE WHO SERVE
September 11, 2001, was a defining moment in history. On Sunday, we mark the 10th anniversary of that terrible day. I urge citizens to take a moment to reflect and to remember the thousands of people who perished in the terrorist attacks.
Among the many heroes of September 11, 2001, were law enforcement, fire protection and EMS workers. To them, to all public safety personnel who are trained to respond in crisis, we say thank you.
We also thank our dedicated military personnel who keep America safe and work to bring freedom and security to people around the world.
GOVERNOR THREATENS TO CLOSE FACILITIES
Setting the tone for the Legislature’s fall veto session beginning in October, Governor Pat Quinn announced plans September 8 to close seven state facilities and lay off more than 1,900 state employees.
It is clear Quinn’s most recent announcement is focused more on seeking legislative authority to reallocate funds within the state budget than on actually following through with the threatened closings.
The problem, however, is that most of the money the Governor wants to shift around does not exist.
At the end of June, Quinn “cut” $376 million from the state budget, before signing the budget into law. Now, he says he wants to use about $313 million of that cut to prevent the layoffs and closure of seven state facilities and also to hand out raises that he previously promised to union members. He also said he wants $183 million for unspecified purposes, to be revealed at a later date.
However, out of his total “cut,” $276 million came from simply pushing off Medicaid payments that the state will owe at the end of the fiscal year. That’s on top of another $1.1 billion in delayed Medicaid payments that the budget already contained.
Although the Governor talked about layoffs and facility closures, budget numbers provided by his administration indicated that only about $55 million of the $315 million he is seeking would go toward those purposes. In addition, he would use $76 million to hand out pay raises he previously promised public employees. He did not specify how he would use another $183 million but indicated it would be detailed in “Phase III” – with Phase I and Phase II being the cancelling of raises for some employees and the closing of facilities, respectively.
Facilities targeted for closure are:
• Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln;
• Jacksonville Developmental Center;
• Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford;
• Chester Mental Health Center;
• Tinley Park Mental Health Center; and
• Murphysboro Youth Correctional Center.
The Governor cannot unilaterally close state facilities immediately. The State Facilities Closure Act lays out a process that must be followed and involves legislative input through the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.
FEDERAL TAX CUTS CANCELLED OUT BY STATE TAX INCREASE
Also during the week, a federal payroll tax cut proposed by President Barack Obama on September 8 served as a reminder that most Illinois residents never saw the first payroll tax cut that went into effect in January. The implementation of the 2011 federal payroll tax cut coincided with enactment of the state’s 67% income tax increase, pushed through by Governor Quinn and legislative Democrats in party-line votes in January.
Quinn and his legislative allies effectively intercepted the federal tax cut and used it to finance state government, instead of putting it into the hands of taxpayers, where it was intended to stimulate the economy.
An expansion of the federal tax cut by 1.1% could mean that Illinois taxpayers would actually see a small increase in their take-home pay, although the bulk of the payroll tax cut would still be offset by the state’s 67% tax hike.