Dems on defense amid state deficit

May 11, 2010 (SPRINGFIELD)

The lack of a state budget comes amid a $13 billion state budget deficit.

Deeper in debt than ever and unable to raise or borrow the money to solve their budget problems, Illinois Democrats are circling the wagons.

They are blaming Republicans and the nation's economy for the state's worsening fiscal crisis.

At his morning news conference, Mayor Richard M. Daley dismissed the charge that Illinois' Democratic Party-controlled government was dysfunctional. The mayor suggested that budget-challenged Springfield was no different than recession-wracked state governments around the country.

"Everyone has the same crisis, I mean there's crises all over in state governments with these budgets," said Daley. "It's very, very difficult."

A top house democrat today pointed the finger at the minority Republicans who will not agree to a tax increase to raise revenue to help resolve the $13 billion deficit and will not support a plan to borrow nearly $4 billion to help pay overdue bills in the near term.

"It's hard to work in a cooperative, bipartisan fashion with people who have decided that their better bet going into the 2010 elections is just to say 'no'," said State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, the Democratic House Majority Leader.

Republicans say the majority Democrats don't need them to support a tax increase during the regular session.

"They have the votes to pass that revenue package if they want to," said Senate Minority Leader and Republican Christine Radogno. "So if they believe that's what the answer is, they should go ahead and do it."

House Speaker Michael Madigan is holding firm to his belief that a fall political disaster would follow if his Democrats stood alone for higher taxes. He wants Republicans on the bill. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn disagrees.

"I think the way to go is to get the majority of each house and put it on the governor's desk, and I've said that from day one," said Quinn.

Some candidates worried that if a spending plan is not passed, by the fall, schools and human services programs could suffer, meaning more angry voters in November:

"I think they're mad as heck - they're mad at everybody - incumbents - throw them out, bring in new people - and this whole idea of change," said the Republican nominee for state treasurer Dan Rutherford. "I think they're just really fed up with the status quo, both the city of Chicago, county of Cook, and now the state of Illinois."

The Democratic leaders in the Illinois General Assembly have not scheduled a date to resume the regular session and finish the 2011 budget.

They probably won't go back until they have at least the framework of a deal. They only want to be in Springfield for a couple more days.

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