SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn was touting a $623 million, job-creating school construction program Thursday at a time when he’s been talking about closing numerous state facilities as part of his push to balance the state budget.
Quinn told WBEZ radio in Chicago his latest budget plans include shuttering more than one juvenile prison.
“There will be quite a few, frankly, facility closures,” Quinn told the station.
Quinn already is trying to close the Jacksonville Developmental Center and has announced plans to shut down other, unidentified mental health centers and developmental centers over the next two years.
Lawmakers in areas populated with state facilities say they haven’t been briefed on the governor’s latest closure proposal.
“I have not heard a thing,” said state Sen. Gary Forby, a Benton Democrat who has a number of prisons, juvenile facilities and developmental centers in or near his southern Illinois district. Forby has repeatedly expressed concern that Quinn will try to shutter the Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna.
“We don’t know where this is going,” added state Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon.
The governor last year threatened to close the youth prison in Murphysboro, the adult prison in Lincoln and five other facilities as part of a budget standoff with the General Assembly. The governor told the radio station that lawmakers who want to see government spending reduced shouldn’t stand in the way of closing “obsolete” facilities in their districts.
“You have to make some sound decisions,” Quinn said. “I have the courage to back them up and this budget year will go forward with facility closures in a variety of places.”
Word of the potential closures and possible job losses in downstate Illinois came as Quinn unveiled a list of school construction projects around the state. Among those getting money are districts in Marion, Mount Vernon and Ramsey.
Quinn said the funds will help provide needed classroom space, while supporting an estimated 4,000 construction jobs throughout the state.
“In order for our students to compete for the jobs of tomorrow, we must ensure they are receiving a quality education in quality school facilities,” Quinn said. “This capital funding will help school districts across the state update their facilities and make critical repairs to improve the educational experience for our students.”