Morning round-up
9:25 am
Wed February 22, 2012

Morning headlines: February 22, 2012

Ill. Gov to propose closing 14 major facilities in budget address

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's administration says the cuts and consolidations will result in more than 1,100 layoffs.

The cuts come in all sizes. At the large end is Tamms Correctional Center, a southern Illinois prison that houses about 400 inmates  -- which is just over half of capacity.

Other major facilities on the block include the women's prison in Dwight, Juvenile Justice facilities in Joliet and Murphysboro, mental health centers in Tinley Park and Rockford, and developmental centers in Jacksonville and Centralia.

Scores of smaller facilities would also be consolidated, ranging from Human Services offices to garages that maintain state vehicles.

"These are the specifics that we have to respond to in the budget where we have discretion," said David Vaught, Quinn's budget director. "And it's forced by these areas where we don't have discretion."

He's talking about required payments for Medicaid and state employee pensions.

Officials say Quinn will be vague about how to cut billions from those programs. He'll have to work it out with the General Assembly -- the same people who rejected Quinn's budget proposal last year.

Mo. lawmakers express concern over birth control proposals

Several Missouri state senators are raising concerns about a proposal to let employers to refuse to provide health insurance coverage for birth control and certain medical procedures. The Senate set the bill aside after two hours of debate Tuesday but could return to it later this week.

Majority Republicans say employers should not have to pay for medical services they find morally objectionable. But some Democrats say the intent of the bill is to make it harder for women to get birth control.

Tuesday's debate comes a few weeks after President Barack Obama's administration tried to get employers such as Catholic hospitals to cover contraception as part of their health insurance plans. The administration now says insurance companies will pay for the contraception.

Missouri parks see rise in attendance

Attendance at Missouri state parks has risen for the third straight year after a 10-year decline. Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday that more than 17.9 million people visited Missouri state parks in 2011, up 9.1 percent from 2010.

The governor says the increases are evidence that the state's economy is improving.

The National Recreation and Parks Association ranked Missouri's state parks system as one of the top four in the country. Nixon says the parks offer different things for different people, and he encourages families to take advantage of them.