Governor optimistic about support for $11 billion capital plan

February 21, 2008 5:16:14 PM PST
Governor Rod Blagojevich hit the road to sell his budget plan Thursday. It calls for tax breaks for some businesses and for families a $300 per child tax credit. But it also includes a big and expensive building program. The plan has a lot of skeptics.

The governor got it from all angles Thursday, fellow Democrats, Republicans, members of the Illinois General Assembly and the United States congressional delegation. Some say his budget costs way too much. Others say they can't understand why Blagojevich's budget team turned its back on federal money for big transit projects.

Governor Rod Blagojevich says the ball is in the General Assembly's court. He sees it as a choice between putting people to work and starving the state during an already choking economic downturn.

Blagojevich's $25 billion capital plan directs money towards mass transit, but Thursday, suburban lawmakers said it's not enough.

Congress approved more than 4-billion dollars in federal money for Illinois, but the state will lose that money unless it contributes $1.5 billion more than Blagojevich budgeted. That's money that has been earmarked for expansion of Metra's Union Pacific West and Northwest Lines, along with planning of the suburban STAR line.

"If we try to go back and compete for those funds with other states in the future they're just not going be there," said Rep. Melissa Bean, (D) northwest suburbs.

"If that's true I'd be happy to make it bigger. They shouldn't lobby me, they ought to be lobbying their state reps and state senators," the governor said.

Wednesday, in Springfield, legislators greeted the governor's budget address with a lukewarm response. The state has a $750 million budget deficit. No time, according to some, to be going on a spending spree.

"The citizens understand, when you're out of money, that is not the time to go shopping. That's the time to reduce your expenses," said Laurence Msall, Civic Federation.

The other problem: quite frankly, a lot of lawmakers simply don't trust the governor, his priorities or his promises.

"Where he can come up with his magical numbers, like saying we're No. 1 in the Midwest, he's either in Never Never Land or can't tell the truth," said State Sen. Bill Brady, (R) Bloomington.

ABC7 asked the governor, "What personal responsibility do you take for the stalemate last year?"

"I don't accept your premise," Blagojevich said. "The legislature chose not to pass a lot of things I asked for them to pass, but we found ways to get those things done without them."

Governor Blagojevich is toning down some of his rhetoric. He no longer touts his "testicular virility." Instead, he said Thursday, everything is on the table and he is willing to negotiate with lawmakers. The only thing that's not an option, according to Blagojevich, is raising the state's income tax.