Ill. lawmakers head home despite budget crisis

June 24, 2009 3:27:38 PM PDT
Illinois lawmakers have cut off their special session to fix the budget crisis until next week. Day two of the special session involved more criticism of the governor and a plan to return to work just two days before the current budget expires. On the problem-solving front, Illinois lawmakers have done nothing this week to enhance their reputations. For another year they will take their budget balancing act down to the last possible day before the beginning of the new fiscal year. And in what's becoming an annual rite in Springfield, Republicans are blaming Democrats.

"There is a lack of clarity, a lack of leadership in what's going on," said Sen. Christine Radogno, (R) Senate minority leader.

Republican lawmakers, both in the Senate and the House, took turns Wednesday blasting Governor Pat Quinn for wasting their time. They pointed out that each day in special session costs Illinois taxpayers $56,000.

"It's been a waste of the taxpayers' dollars to be down here. Remember, special sessions cost approximately one teacher's salary every single day," said Radogno.

Despite the huge pro-tax increase rally Tuesday and individual meetings with Democrats, as well as Republican caucuses of both chambers, the governor could not execute his plan to get a tax increase vote, neither on his plan to raise the rate from 3 to 4.5 percent, nor on a bill already passed in the Senate that would raise the rate to 5 percent but give property tax relief and increase aid to public schools.

"We're looking for an income tax increase deal that will solve the problem," said Sen. James Meeks, (D) Chicago.

The governor's deal-making effort in the House and Senate during the past two days has involved offers of deeper cuts in the operational budget. They include layoffs or 12 day furloughs for state workers.

Quinn says he has told lawmakers he will trade such cuts for the passage of a tax increase plan that raised enough revenue to balance the state's $9.2 billion deficit and save the grant programs so critical to the poor and disabled.

"It's gonna take some hard work and it's gonna take some tough votes," said Gov. Quinn.

Republican Senator Matt Murphy, who announced this week he will run for governor next year, said he supports more spending cuts, but also borrowing money in the short term, as opposed to a income tax increase.

"Everybody's got something in this they won't like, for me, it's the borrowing. But we've got to do something to ramp down from the overspending in the last seven years," said Sen. Matt Murphy, (R) Palatine.

The House reconvenes on Monday, the Senate on Tuesday. They have until midnight, Tuesday, June 30, to come up with a budget by law.

Already we're hearing there is some support for passing a temporary, one or two-month budget at current funding levels to they get through the rough spots while they to negotiate this tax increase.

ABC7's Charles Thomas has more on the political beat in his Precinct 7 Blog.


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