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Editorial: Save money, not jobs that don’t need doing

Gov. PQuinn

Gov. Pat Quinn

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Updated: December 28, 2012 6:19AM

If the Illinois Senate cares more about saving your money than about saving union jobs, it will not vote Wednesday to block Gov. Quinn’s efforts to close four under-used and wastefully expensive adult and juvenile prisons.

That same unwise vote would make it impossible for Quinn to divert the savings from closing the facilities, some $56 million, to where the money is urgently needed, funding programs for abused and neglected children.

Politicians, especially Republicans, complain constantly about bloated government spending and padded payrolls. Well, here’s a chance for Republicans and Democrats to do something about it, if only they are brave enough to stand up to the unions fighting to protect those prison jobs.

As to the argument that the prisons should remain open until new uses are found for the facilities, that sounds to us like a recipe for doing nothing while the state’s budget bleeds red ink.

Specifically, the Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a motion to override Gov. Quinn’s veto of about $56 million from the Department of Corrections’ budget. If the Senate succeeds in the override, Quinn still could close the facilities simply by refusing to spend the appropriated money. But he would not be able to redirect the money to the Department of Children and Family Services or to any other purpose.

DCFS took a big hit — a cut of nearly $90 million — in its latest budget, and will remain woefully underfunded even if it picks up the $56 million. That likely will mean that more kids — an estimated 1,200 — will have to be removed from their homes and placed in foster care, a truly shameful turn of events. Studies overwhelmingly show that kids do better when they live at home, with the help of more costly social services, rather than in foster homes.

Nobody wants to see anybody lose a good union job, such as working in a prison, in hard times.

But the State of Illinois is broke. It can’t keep paying for jobs that don’t have to be done. And DCFS sorely needs that $56 million to care for abused and neglected children.

If we don’t do right by those kids now, we’ll see them in our prisons soon enough.

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