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Prisons rationing toilet paper: Rauner's Corrections department desperate for $420 million more in spending

sims 041118High anxiety and frustration is expected among incarcerated criminals. But lately Governor Rauner’s administrators at the Illinois Department of Corrections are living under $420 million worth of pressure and they’re hoping lawmakers will quickly send them more money to operate.
 
Rauner’s Department of Corrections is unable to effectively operate and dig out of the deficit spending hole created by his drawn-out budget stalemate. IDOC officials say they’ve exhausted efficiency methods, all the way down to rationing of toilet paper available to inmates.
 
As serious as the situation seems, Senators from both sides of the aisle expressed frustration of IDOC Director John Baldwin’s lack of strong advocacy for the funds.
 
“If the Department of Corrections is out of money, the Governor has to shout it out,” said Senator Elgie Sims (D-Chicago). “Until today, I’ve really heard nothing about how desperate the situation is. I haven’t heard the governor say, ‘we need help, we need half-a-billion dollars for our prison system.’ Given all he has said about out-of-balance budgets and overspending from legislators, I don’t even know if Governor Rauner has a clue about this situation.”
 
Part of the challenge the Department of Corrections is facing is paying the obligations that were backlogged under the two-year budget impasse. During that period, spending continued in many agencies, including Corrections. After paying many of these bills, there are insufficient funds available to operate for a full year.
 
While there exists Republican legislation to help advance Governor Rauner’s request for $1 billion more additional spending, the Governor’s office has taken a quiet approach to exposing the need for a supplemental appropriation.
 
“In February, the governor’s budget director has used terms like ‘unappropriated liabilities’ instead of being blunt in saying he needs hundreds of millions of dollars more to spend,” said Senator Heather Steans, a top Democratic budget negotiator. “There’s a willingness to work to find a solution, but I wish the administration would stop trying to nuance the need.”
 
In his closing remarks, Director Balwin reemphasized the value and dedication that the thousands of Corrections employees bring to their worksites every day. He also pledged to do more to advocate for them by advocating for the Governor’s $420 million in additional prison spending.

Senator Elgie R. Sims Jr.

Senator Elgie R. Sims Jr.

17th District

Years served: 2012–2018 (House); 2018–Present (Senate)

Committee assignments:

Biography: Attorney; born in Chicago; B.S., Political Science, Illinois State University; M.P.A., University of Illinois; J.D., Loyola University Chicago School of Law; married, has two children.

Associated Representative(s): Marcus C. Evans Jr.