The state has been without a new spending plan since July 1, and with lawmakers due to return to Springfield on Tuesday, the governor has reversed his decision to make approval of a balanced budget a condition for signing a $29 billion dollar capital spending plan. At a meeting with legislators Thursday he said he will now sign the plan Monday in the hopes this will create enough good will towards him to get a budget agreement.
"I think the ingredients are ready next week to have a good conclusion of getting a jobs bill passed, signed into law, as well as a budget, a stable budget," said Governor Quinn.
But is the governor's optimism a case of wishful thinking? Friday, Governor Quinn met with a group of legislators at the Thompson Center, hoping to sway them toward at the very least passing a five-month budget.
"The governor is showing by signing the capital bill that he can put politics aside, but that is no guarantee that others will do so," said State Sen. Ricky Hendon, (D) Chicago.
"It's a political strategy. But it's one that do we want to fix Illinois or just keep patching this road, no pun intended, going towards the new year," said State Sen. William Delgado, (D) Chicago.
The governor is also being criticized for how this capital spending plan will be financed at a time when the money is just not there. At least one-third of the $29 billion dollars is set to come from an expansion in video poker machines.
Friday, a government watchdog group called on Quinn to put off signing the bill, or at least modify it, until public hearings have been held into what would be an unprecedented expansion of gambling in the state.
"It only funds one-third of the bill, so instead of a $30 billion capital bill, you do a $20 billion bill. Get going on those projects with other funding sources. Study this closely, maybe hold a referendum and if it turns out to be a wonderful thing, put it back in," said Andy Shaw, Better Government Association.
In the past, Governor Quinn has opposed gambling expansion without hearings, but when asked about it Friday he refused to speak about funding for the Capital Bill, saying he will do so at the bill signing on Monday.
Late Friday afternoon, The Associated Press reported that Governor Quinn has decided to shelve his tax increase proposal until the fall in order to end the budget stalemate. No comment as of yet from either House Speaker Mike Madigan or Senate Leader John Cullerton's office on the governor's change of heart.