The $53 billion Illinois budget being proposed today by Gov. Rod Blagojevich includes closing the sprawling Vandalia Correctional Center, state Rep. Ron Stephens said yesterday, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s just not good news for our region,” said Stephens, a Republican whose district includes the prison, 60 miles northeast of St. Louis. “We should be opening prisons. We have a growing prison population.”
Stephens will start a petition drive to keep open the medium-security prison, which houses about 1,000 male inmates and has 500 employees.
The Illinois budget deficit is estimated at $1.7 billion. Closing Vandalia, along with a prison in St. Charles, near Chicago, would save about $50 million, the Post-Dispatch said. The state is gaining some space with the opening of a new prison in Lawrence County, on the Indiana border.
The budget being proposed today is not expected to call for any tax increases or major service cuts. Blagojevich is due to outline his plan in his annual budget address to a joint session of the legislature in Springfield.