Cook to cut prosecutorsStroger's budget plan spurs massive trims
Saturday, February 17, 2007
by Carlos Sadovi and Mickey Ciokajlo
In the first wide-scale job cuts resulting from Cook County's budget problems, State's Atty. Richard Devine announced Friday that he was laying off 43 prosecutors and 10 investigators.
Devine said the reductions will mean shutting down the five community prosecution offices, the arson unit and the energy and environment unit.
The layoffs take effect March 2 and will occur regardless of how ongoing budget negotiations are settled in the coming days, Devine said.
About 45 state's attorney workers in administrative jobs will be laid off next week, he said.
"These cuts, they're painful," said Devine, whose office has more than 800 lawyers. "The standard that was set out was, `You've got to cut everything that's not related to your core mission.'"
Devine said he also is concerned that his remaining employees may not receive a cost-of-living raise for the third straight year. Devine said another year without a raise for those employees would likely mean losing some of his most experienced prosecutors.
Board President Todd Stroger and the county commissioners are struggling to close a projected $500 million deficit by Feb. 28 without raising taxes. The $3 billion budget introduced by Stroger last month would eliminate hundreds of workers and shut down some services, including 14 community health clinics.
Stroger proposed to reduce the state's attorney's budget by more than $14 million. Devine said he's making more than $10 million in cuts in hopes that additional funding will be restored. Since introducing the budget Jan. 16, Stroger has offered money to retain the state's attorney's "drug school," an alternative-sentencing program.
Stroger also has said funds are now available to raise the pay of some prosecutors, who are not unionized, to put their salaries on par with the county's assistant public defenders, who are in a union.
As the county struggles with its money woes, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has weighed in, sending a staff letter offering assistance. Most notably, the state offered to pay $30 million to $60 million for surplus land around Oak Forest Hospital.
Commissioners have floated the idea of selling some of the property but Stroger said Friday that it wasn't a fix for the 2007 budget.
"We can't put money in the budget that's not actually there," Stroger said during a taping of "At Issue," which airs at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. Sunday on WBBM-AM 780.