Gov addresses pay raises, capital plan

August 11, 2008 4:46:42 PM PDT
Governor Rod Blagojevich came to Chicago Monday to sell his $25 billion plan to rebuild Illinois.He received a warm reception before a sold out group of business leaders, but outside the banquet hall, he was met with a protest.

Warring Illinois Democrats -- some invited, some not -- took their ugliness to Chicago's business and civic leaders Monday. Governor Blagojevich wanted to explain his program to rebuild the state's roads, bridges and schools. But the state's number two executive did his best to distract the crowd.

The governor entered the banquet room through a back door and didn't have to pass his lieutenant governor, fellow Democrat and 2006 running mate Patrick Quinn and staff leafleting guests outside the main entrance. Quinn wants the governor to join him in opposition to a scheduled pay raise for state lawmakers.

"If they are going to try to get a pay raise without a vote, that is the wrong way to go," Quinn said.

In the speech, the governor ignored Quinn and focusing instead on his effort to get a $25 billion public works plan that he can't get passed because House Speaker Michael Madigan - another Democrat - won't call it for a vote.

"The senate Democrats, the senate Republicans, the house Republicans and the Democratic governor have agreed to an infrastructure capital program. All we have to do is get the Democratic house leaders to be for it.," said Blagojevich.

Blagojevich was introduced to the City Club by yet another Democratic leader - Illinois Senate President Emil Jones. He supports a pay raise for state lawmakers and other officials and used the word "stupidity" to describe the lieutenant governor's demonstration.

"You do not play to the cheers of the crowd when you are wrong," Jones said.

Surrounded by reporters after his speech, the governor did address the pay raise, and for the first time in public took a position opposite that of longtime ally Senator Jones.

"The last thing they should be doing is giving themselves pay raises," Blagojevich said.

At the end of the event, City Club moderator Paul Green said it did not appear there has been any improvement in relations between the top Democrats in Illinois.

"Just because you are in the same party doesn't mean you have to like each other. You have a lot of people that want to be king of the hill, and unfortunately, there is room for on top for one," said Green.

Back on the pay raise issue, the Illinois House has already voted against taking the 7.5 percent increase. The senate must also vote against it for it not to happen.

Meanwhile, state comptroller Dan Hynes says it's all a moot point because there isn't enough money to fund the salary increases. The legislature reconvenes in special session Wednesday in Springfield.


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