Illinois legislature faces tough issues

May 26, 2009 (CHICAGO) It has just five days to tackle some very tough issues including the state's budget crisis and the call for political reform.

ABC7 has been told that at this late date there is nowhere near a consensus in Springfield on an income tax increase proposal and campaign contribution limits.

The next few days at the Capitol will be some of the most critical in recent state history.

The bills to balance the budget, including a possible income tax increase to rebuild the state's infrastructure and create jobs and to reform what's called one of the most corrupt state governments in the country will flood the floors of both the Illinois house and senate this week.

The promised, post-Blagojevich, transparency in state government will be blurred in a frenzy to beat the May 31 end of the spring legislative session.

On the budget, lawmakers must find a way to fill a nearly 12 billion dollar deficit. While other recession-wracked states like California have opted for massive cuts. Gov. Pat Quinn's plan includes an increase in the state's income tax as well as other fees. So far, the legislative leaders have not signed on.

While the house and senate have passed a $26 billion infrastructure and jobs bill, financed in large part by expanded gambling and liquor taxes, the governor has vowed not to sign it until the budget is balanced. On Tuesday, Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley appeared to sympathize with Quinn.

"You can't have capital without a budget. That's one thing. You need a budget," said Mayor Daley.

Then, there's ethics reform which at one point the newly appointed governor called the state's highest priority in the wake of the Rod Blagojevich's ouster from office. Most reform advocates have called for a limit on campaign contributions and how much money legislative leaders may contribute to the campaigns of individual house and senate members.

Former ABC7's political reporter Andy Shaw - who was announced on Tuesday as the Better Government Association's new executive director - was skeptical that Madigan and Cullerton would back reform when it comes to their powers.

"You're probably going to see limits on individual contributions but not on the money the bosses can give. So what good are the limits if the leadership can fund campaigns with their limitless war chests?" said Shaw.

Charles has more on the political beat in his Precinct 7 Blog.

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