Illinois Capitol Police Face Elimination

Apr 28, 2014

Metal detectors and X-ray machines were installed in the Illinois Capitol after a gunman killed an unarmed security guard in 2004.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers continue to hear dire scenarios for the state budget if they do not vote to extend the five-percent income tax rate. The latest threatened cuts include the entire state Capitol Police force.

The Capitol Police Department was established less than 10 years ago, after a deranged man shot and killed an unarmed security officer.

The shooting led to the installation of metal detectors and x-ray machines, and hiring sworn, armed law enforcement personnel.

But Secretary of State Jesse White says, unless the legislature makes the temporary tax increase permanent, the entire force will be eliminated — leaving just the unarmed guards.

"We just believe if we have to revert back to the days when this gentleman was killed, that it may not be in the best interests of the members of the Illinois General Assembly, or the people at large," he says.

White says that would be one of many cuts he'd have to make if the tax rate is allowed to begin decreasing at the end of the year as scheduled.

He says the nearly $39 million in cuts would also include closing 25 drivers license facilities and laying off at least 200 employees, and the state would stop mailing reminders for people to renew their drivers licenses and license plates.

"If we are forced to stop sending notices out, I am afraid that many well-intentioned people will simply forget to renew their vehicle registration or drivers license in a timely manner," White says.

Republicans say Democrats are exaggerating the financial hole that would be created by letting the tax increase expire. But they have yet to offer their own comprehensive plan for funding — or cutting — state government.