- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

MOUNT STERLING, Ill. (AP) - One small central Illinois community is considering shutting off water to its prison because it’s owed nearly $370,000 from the state during the nearly yearlong budget stalemate between Democrats and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The Mount Sterling City Council plans to vote Monday on whether to cut off water at its medium-security prison housing 1,800 inmates. The Quincy Herald-Whig reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/1sNc22o ) the city of 1,900 residents is among three west-central Illinois communities with prisons that are waiting for payments from the state.

The two other municipalities, Clayton and Pittsfield, are owed about $26,000 and $104,000 respectively but are not considering pulling the plug on utilities at its prisons.

Mount Sterling Mayor Dane Flesner said he opposes cutting off water to the prison because they would lose 400 jobs if inmates are moved elsewhere and the facility closes. Flesner would be the tie-breaking vote if the six councilmembers deadlock.

“It would just destroy our economy if that place were to shut down,” Flesner said. He expressed frustration “that the state of Illinois is piggybacking off of a community of 1,900 people.”

In an email statement to the newspaper, Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said officials “are hopeful that the city of Mount Sterling, and all of our vendors, will continue to work with us during these challenging times.”

The state’s backlog of unpaid bills is nearly $8 billion as Democrats, who control the Illinois Legislature, and Rauner remain gridlocked on passing a budget.

The next fiscal year begins July 1. Lawmakers and the governor are trying to agree on a short-term spending plan that would get the state to January. They’re also trying to agree on a one-year budget for public schools to ensure they open this fall.

Prison utilities are just one of many areas where the state has been behind on payments. Vendors at the Du Quoin State Fair, providers for in-home health care workers, and contractors who clean leaking underground fuel storage tanks have all experienced payment delays or non-payment for services. And those are just a few examples.

“I find it interesting that we’re required to have a budget for our municipality every year by law,” Clayton Mayor Sam Miller said. “The state doesn’t have to follow that.”


Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

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