State lawmakers fail to act on budget crisis

October 30, 2009 4:37:43 PM PDT
State lawmakers did not act on the budget or the state spending plan during their latest session. So, once again, some very tough decisions are being put off by the legislature.The festive sound of an all-male choir in the Rotunda made the last day of the fall veto session seem all too normal. Two floors up, the House and Senate worked Friday fast, finishing their final day in chambers in 2009.

"It's almost like this big gorilla in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge is here," said Republican House Minority Leader Rep. Tom Cross.

For the third time this year, the lawmakers would come and go from Springfield without resolving the Illinois budget mess: an estimated $10 billion deficit and at least $3 billion in unpaid bills.

"We've got to find the political will to deal with the problems, and we're going to have to deal with it in the spring," said Rep. Will Burns, D-Chicago.

Gov. Pat Quinn, who last spring began his so far unsuccessful effort to get a tax increase to resolve the deficit, rarely mentioned it this week.

"Clearly, [there is] a budget challenge. It's the greatest in Illinois history, but I think we'll be able to get through this," Quinn said.

Quinn, who faces a Democratic primary challenge, spent more time shaking citizen hands. He and lawmakers admit the upcoming election and Democratic infighting is the reason there has been nothing done on the budget.

"The Democrats have enough votes without any Republican votes to pass a tax increase, if that's what they want to do. I think what they recognize is the mood of electorate: they don't want to send more money to a system that they perceive to be inefficient," Sen. Christine Radogno, Republican minority leader.

Earlier this week, the governor announced the state needed to borrow nearly $1 billion for year-end bills and payroll expenses.

House Speaker Michael Madigan defended the "pay as you go" spending plan, saying that is the state budget for now.

"We do have a budget, a budget is authority to spend money. The governor asked for additional authority yesterday. We're going to give it to him, but we're not going to give him authority to spend money he doesn't have," Madigan said.

The General Assembly reconvenes in January, less than one month before the 2010 primary election. That means the members are likely to come and go, yet again, without resolving what's called the most serious financial crisis in state history.


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