But two floors up in the soundproof legislative chambers, lawmakers tried to balance the largest deficit in state history and had to deal with another reality.
"We simply, at this stage, at this time, don't have sufficient votes to pass an income tax increase," said State Rep. Lou Lang, (D) Skokie.
Governor Pat Quinn, who recommended the state income tax rate be increased from 3 to 4.5 percent, said he believed lawmakers in both chambers would see things his way by the May 31st deadline.
"We are going to get there. I'm confident that the members of the general assembly will live up to their responsibilities to have a balanced budget," said Quinn.
But Republican leaders refuse to help the controlling Democrats.
"We just think it's bad policy to raise taxes in this environment and drive more businesses and people who are paying taxes out of this state," said State Sen. Christine Radogno, (R) Senate minority leader.
"We have a budget problem because we've had six years of spending where we didn't have the money," said State Rep. Tom Cross, (R) House minority leader.
Many downstate Democrats and those from more affluent suburban districts also could pose a problem, while Democrats who represent lower income areas worry about deep cuts that could happen without new revenue.
"We could be cutting the very safety nets that folks are depending on in this tough economic time if we reduce the state's budget by $7.4 billion," said State Rep. Will Burns, (D) Chicago.
With the deadline only three days away, the governor dismissed the idea of passing a temporary budget and returning next fall to deal with the deficit.
"We are not going to leave here without a balanced budget and that's the way it works," said Quinn.
If there is nothing passed by May 31 and the governor has to call a special session for the summer, then that would mean the legislature would have to have a 3/5 majority to pass a tax increase. People in Springfield say that would be virtually impossible to get.
Charles has more on the political beat in his Precinct 7 Blog.