SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn won the latest round Wednesday in his ongoing fight with lawmakers over his plan to close prisons and other state facilities.
The House adjourned for the year Wednesday without acting on legislation that would have overridden the governor’s veto of about $56 million earmarked to save jobs at the Tamms Correctional Center, the all-female prison in Dwight, halfway houses in Decatur and Carbondale and youth prisons in Murphysboro and Joliet.
The sponsor of the override, House Speaker Michael Madigan, offered no explanation for letting the measure die.
“He didn’t think it was a necessary action to take,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.
While an override vote would have been purely symbolic because Quinn still could have moved forward with the closures, a vote would have sent the Chicago Democrat a message, said Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg.
“For the governor to go out and disregard the hard work of the General Assembly really bothers me,” the Harrisburg Democrat said.
Rep. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign, said he was mystified over Madigan’s decision to let the governor’s veto stand.
“Many of us have complained about the power held by Speaker Madigan. Today showcased another instance of how he controls of what we vote or do not vote on,” Barickman said.
Quinn said the non-vote in the House represented a “victory” for taxpayers.
“These closures will strengthen our long-term effort to cut state expenses and put Illinois on sound financial footing,” Quinn said in a prepared statement.
The non-vote also could help Quinn in his court fight with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. The union has thus far succeeded in blocking the prison closures, but the courts could look more favorably on Quinn’s position if he points to the lack of action by the House, aides to the governor said Wednesday.
The adjournment of the House without a debate on Senate Bill 2474 came just minutes after an anti-closure rally organized by southern Illinois mayors.
The mayors, as well as scores of school children bused in from Centralia, gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to try to generate support for keeping facilities open.
“This is unfair and unjust,” said Centralia Mayor Tom Ashby, who is fighting to keep Quinn from closing the Murray Developmental Center next year. “We do not want to give up this fight.“
Carbondale Mayor Joel Fritzler said the cuts sought by Quinn represent an attack on the southern part of the state.
In addition to closing an adult transition center in Carbondale, Quinn consolidated a Department of Human Services office and shuttered a state police forensic laboratory in Carbondale.
“If we don’t say anything, nothing is going to get done. We need to keep being a thorn in the governor’s side,” Fritzler said.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who represented Dwight while a member of the House and Senate, said overcrowding within the prison system has created dangerous conditions for guards and inmates.
“Closing prisons is not the solution,” Rutherford said. “It will only make matters worse.“
Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, said he wasn’t sure why Madigan didn’t move forward with the override.
“I’m very, very surprised it wasn’t called for a vote,” Bradley said.