Illinois Democrats are under intense pressure- particularly from organized labor- to get a capital spending plan in place as soon as possible. It now appears the warring factions are close to an agreement on how to finance the lion's share of the $25 billion price tag.
If there was a breakthrough moment in the long and bitter Illinois political stalemate, it happened last month in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. The now-legendary hug between Governor Rod Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan raised hopes that the state's feuding Democratic Party leaders might soon agree on a capital bill to build roads, bridges and schools.
"The history would suggest strongly that this is a political trick bag. And, as I say, I hope I'm wrong," said Rep. Tom Cross, (R) Oswego.
House Minority Leader Cross is skeptical about indications from Madigan's office that the speaker might agree to the governor's plan to raise as much as $12 billion to pay for new spending by leasing the Illinois Lottery.
But Madigan--who has said publicly he doesn't trust Blagojevich--reportedly wants it written in a capital bill that the terms of any lottery lease must be approved by State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes. Both Giannoulias and Hynes identify themselves as Blagojevich opponents.
On Tuesday afternoon, a spokesman for the governor's office released a statement about those terms:
"We don't see any problem with that. It's a good first step for them to at least agree in substance with leasing the lottery".
Meanwhile, Republicans complain that while the speaker and governor could finally agree on how to raise the revenue for the capital plan, the Democrats have not listed in detail how they'll spend the money.
"Not talking about spending certainly begs the question is this real when the complete package is revenue and spending," said Rep. Cross.
If there are no spending specifics, lawmakers cannot return home before the election to tout their accomplishments. The Republicans want a capital bill with spending details by October 1.