Lawmakers find money to keep hospitals, prisons open

Seven facilities slated for closure will operate until next summer

November 30, 2011

Kristen McQueary

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At the last minute, lawmakers in Springfield changed direction on a plan to close seven state hospitals and prisons.

Members of the Illinois House and Senate shifted money in the state budget late Tuesday to keep the facilities open, for now.

Most of the money will come from $376 million Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed in June, which came largely from delaying Medicaid payments and trimming school transporation costs. Lawmakers also transferred about $95 million in unexpected revenue from unclaimed property and assets that normally would have gone to pay pension costs.

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor had no choice but to announce the closings in September and begin the closure process, even though in the end, lawmakers found the money.

Union workers whose jobs would have been lost and families with loved ones housed at the seven facilities protested at contentious hearings held statewide, including Rockford and Tinley Park.

Quinn's office said the reversal of the closures isn't permanent. The governor still wants to move toward a system of community-based providers for the disabled, and the money approved Tuesday will only hold until the end of the fiscal year June 30.