As expected, hardly anybody showed up for Saturday’s special session called by the governor to take up the idea of a one-month budget…
About one-quarter of state senators showed up for Saturday’s session. Less than half of House members made an appearance. Neither chamber devoted even a second of discussion to a temporary budget.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said he wouldn’t call the response disrespectful to Blagojevich. “I think it indicates that there’s a majority of the House that simply is not responsive to the governor’s desires,” he said.
Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said the indifference to Blagojevich’s special session and his exclusion from budget talks demonstrate his shrinking role in Springfield.
“There are signs of irrelevance,” Brady said.
Blagojevich issued a statement saying he was disappointed.
Brady is almost certainly running for governor, so his comments should always be taken with a grain of salt. Still, he has a point.
The governor called another special for Monday, when legislators were planning to be back in town anyway. Calling a Sunday special session would have meant yet another story about his alleged irrelevance and demonstrated even more weakness.
“We’ve had two productive meetings, we directed our appropriation directors to work through the weekend to prepare a 12-month budget, which is precisely what we’re going to do,” Madigan said. “When we return to Springfield next week, I presume that they’ll be another meeting of the four legislative leaders, and we will continue to discuss and negotiate the remaining issues, which largely revolve around the funding level for education.”
In the Senate, Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) further supported efforts for a 12-month budget, saying she hoped it could be completed by Friday. To make the governor’s special session on Saturday official, she gaveled the Senate in and out in less than five minutes, including the prayer and the pledge of allegiance.
Even leadership expected little action in Springfield over the weekend. Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) was in Chicago getting treated for a sciatic nerve problem, and Sen. James Clayborne (D-Belleville) was on a long-planned family vacation in Aruba, a spokeswoman said.
On the spur of the moment, Halvorson, at the invitation of Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), went to the governor’s Capitol office after the brief session to seek an audience.
“You know what? If I could speak for what’s in the governor’s mind, I would be a millionaire,” Halvorson said.
“Why do you think that?” Brady asked. “What’s in his mind that’s so valuable?”
The governor was not at his office, where a spokeswoman said he was at the Executive Mansion at that time.
[Comments are open on this post, but they won’t be visibile until Monday. I’m taking a break. You should, too.]
This weekend’s leaders meetings were cancelled and the special sessions will most likely be gavel in/out, so except for a post later today with audio from the postgame show, there will be no Capitol Fax and no blogging until Monday. I think I’ll monitor the budgeteers meetings from the boat.
* 9:17 am - The governor has called a special session for tomorrow at 9 am to take up the matter of a one-month budget. House Speaker Michael Madigan just told his members to plan to be in session throughout the weekend, as well as next Monday and Tuesday.
…Adding… The current one-month budget expires next Tuesday.
* 9:29 am - I just asked Senate President Emil Jones’ spokesperson about the special session proclamation. She talked to Jones and issued this statement from him: “We are working on a twelve-month budget.”
* 9:33 am - That looming deadline of July 31st was specifically cited by the governor’s office as reason for the special session proclamation, which apparently hasn’t yet reached the House, according to Speaker Madigan.
The “bright rumor” had been for days that the leaders would stay in town this weekend and members would go home. But Senate President Jones was coy with some of his members yesterday, and reportedly wouldn’t indicate one way or another what the schedule might be.
* 10:05 am - The governor’s special session proclamation (number 9, if you’re keeping track) can be downloaded here.
* 10:16 am - Thanks to a commenter for reminding me about this memo, sent by Secretary of State Jesse White to all of his employees this week…
“Recent news reports of an Illinois government shutdown have raised questions regarding the impact of the office of the Illinois Secretary of State.
“If a shutdown does occur, the Illinois Secretary of State’s office will remain open and employees will be required to work their normal schedules. Employees will be compensated, as always, for this time.”
* 10:49 am - My intern Paul, who is “retiring,” just got a nice round of applause from the entire state Senate.
* 11:17 am - I’ll post the audio of the availability in the subscribers only section, but the AP has this…
Senate President Emil Jones says he’s not interested in another temporary budget. He wants to come up with a real budget.
*** 12:00 pm *** WLS reporter Ryan Hermes has posted excerpts from interviews with three legislative leaders.
* President Jones…
“Myself and the other two leaders, Cross & Watson & the speaker sat down to talk about the budget.”
- “The governor let his views be known, but we’re the legislative leaders.”
- “It’s up to us to make that decision as to what we should do and where we should compromise.”
- “We should fashion a budget to were we don’t have a government shutdown.”
- “We’re taking about education, healthcare, capitol program, mass transit funding.” […]
- “I intend to try to get it (budget) done around the first week in August - no later than the first week in August . I’m working towards a budget for a full year, not just a one month extension.”
* Speaker Madigan…
- “I think we could do a 12 month budget before Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.”
On yesterday’s leadership meeting:
- “I found it to be a very productive meeting. We identified the areas of difference and had some very productive discussions as to how we can find sufficient revenue to pay for - say - an increase in education.”
- “Our plan is to meet again today.”
- “I’m very hopeful that this process (meeting without the governor present) will give us a 12 month budget some time next week.”
* Leader Cross…
“I still think we’ve got a long way to go.”
- “One side (Senate) wants to spend into the billions and the other side (House) says they can get it done with existing revenues.”
- “You have to look to the Democratic party and the Democratic administration and say ‘why can’t you get this done?’”
I just saw Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson (R-Greenville) come strolling out of the governor’s office.
He told me he met with Governor Rod Blagojevich for about 30 minutes.
The two talked about “building a relationship.”
A little late for that.
* 3:38 pm - FYI, the four legislative leaders have been meeting in Senate President Emil Jones’ office since about 2 pm. The governor, as before, was not invited. There was hope throughout the Statehouse that Jones might try to convince the governor to rescind his special session proclamation. But his spokesperson said a while ago that the Senate planned to meet tomorrow, as per the proclamation.
*** 4:15 pm *** Paul reports that it was just announced that there will be no further leaders meetings this weekend. This afternoon’s leaders meeting concluded a few minutes ago. Cross and Watson talked to the press. Madigan refused. Jones is still in his office. Audio later in the subscriber section.
* 4:20 pm - The budgeteers will meet this weekend. That often means there was progress on an outline. Special session will continue as planned, but don’t expect a big turnout.
What’s more evil: The absence of universal health insurance in Illinois or a modest state income tax increase?
I asked Gov. Blagojevich that question the other day.
Blagojevich has been pushing a universal health insurance bill all year. He’s claimed it’s the greatest moral issue of our times and even said it’s “God’s will” that all people should have access to health care. So far, however, he hasn’t had a lot of luck, or demonstrated much skill in making his dream a reality.
His initial plan was grand and sweeping, funded partly by a 3 percent payroll tax on employers. The rest of the multibillion-dollar plan was paid for with the doomed - and gigantic - gross receipts tax on business. Both ideas died.
Through it all, Blagojevich has steadfastly vowed to veto any increase in either the state income tax or the sales tax. He’s even said that if the General Assembly overrides those vetoes he would call special legislative sessions until they changed their minds.
The governor’s obstinacy has greatly complicated his quest. Legislative pressure has built for decades to finally “solve” education funding. The most widely accepted solution was an income tax hike coupled with significant property tax relief. This was supposed to be “the year” to get it done. Nothing has happened, mainly because of the governor’s threats.
Mass transit is experiencing a serious funding crisis, and legislators and advocates have come up with a plan for a minuscule 0.25 percent sales tax increase in the RTA service area. Blagojevich has said he will veto that.
Horse trading is the usual way out of sticky legislative situations. I agree to most of your ideas, you agree to most of mine and then let’s all go home. That hasn’t happened yet this year because of the governor’s intransigence.
Please read the whole thing before commenting. Thanks.
* Meanwhile, the impatience grows at the Peoria Journal-Star’s editorial board…
If the state’s needs are that dire, then its leaders should be making the case to average Illinoisans - all of them, not just some - to open their wallets. When they can’t bring themselves to do that, it only communicates that the situation isn’t that serious, after all. That’s unfortunate, because in fact many of Illinois’ challenges are very daunting, with long-range implications that will not be pretty.
Make no mistake, we’re not advocating a tax increase, not this late or this knee-jerk in a humiliating legislative session in which so few have done anything to elevate the public’s trust in them. There’s precious little talk of living within the state’s means, which ought to be on the table, as well. Some Republicans mouth that recognition, though it’s fair to question their motivation: Do they really believe it, or are they just content to reap the political gain of watching ruling Democrats spontaneously combust?
Allow us to let you in on one other dirty little secret, in answer to this question: Why the now-or-never tax hike urgency? It’s simple: 2008 is an election year, and heaven forbid that anyone should make any hard or controversial decisions before voters go to the polls. Well, there’s an election every other year, which means that half the time, the Legislature doesn’t allow itself to do anything of significance. Maybe its members should be paid half as much, then. Bet that’s one proposal we won’t see in bill form.
Again, cowardice and dishonesty are getting government exactly where they always do: Nowhere.
* Property tax relief has dropped off the Statehouse radar, and the Daily Southtown wants it put back…
So once again, we remind lawmakers and the governor that the region’s high property taxes are their fault. That is, local property taxes go primarily to schools, and school taxes continue to increase every year because the state refuses to pay its fair share for education. The state constitution mandates that the state should be the primary funding source for public schools. But the Legislature, with the tacit support of a succession of governors, has declined to be the primary funding source. Schools only have one alternative when the state ducks its duty, and that is to raise property taxes.
* And then there’s this topic, which I’d like to forget…
Gov. Blagojevich’s office Thursday wrongly suggested it had enlisted Cardinal George to persuade recalcitrant lawmakers to support the governor’s languishing health-care plan.
* More end of session stuff, compiled by a slightly tired and surprisingly non-hungover Paul…
* We talked about the newly revised cigarette tax yesterday. As you know, a new amendment was introduced in the Senate to up the proposed tax hike from 75 cents per pack to 90 cents. A Senate committee approved the amendment yesterday. Check this out…
No opponents were allowed to testify during Thursday’s hearing.
* The Daily Herald breaks through the clutter of the partisan committee debate yesterday and gives us this…
With Democratic support possibly wavering on the plan, Senate leaders reached out to DuPage County in hopes of gaining support from that county’s Republican senators. The latest version would let DuPage and every other county in Illinois impose up to a $2-per-pack tax. Currently only Cook County can do that.
DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom has spent months lobbying for this, saying a $1 tax there would raise $25 million annually, enough to restore jobs and social service programs cut from the county budget. […]
Although all Republicans voted against the plan in a Senate committee Thursday, the strategy is likely to work with the full Senate. State Sen. Dan Cronin, an Elmhurst Republican, said he supports it, and sponsors said at least two other DuPage senators are also supportive.
“On balance, I think it’s the best a guy in the suburbs, a minority Republican, could hope for,” Cronin said.
* A bit more from Michael Sneed on the amendment’s sponsor, Sen. John Cullerton…
Cullerton, who was raised in DuPage County, has promised to help Schillerstrom ease DuPage budget pressures by cutting him cash for the county.
* I had this on the blog yesterday, but it was late in the afternoon so many of you didn’t get a chance to comment…
U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, who earned a reputation for civility in the harsh world of politics, will retire after seven terms in Congress, an aide said Thursday. The Peoria Republican will formally announce his retirement during news conferences today in Peoria, Jacksonville and Springfield, spokesman Tim Butler said. LaHood, 61, said in an interview Thursday that the prospect of leading an ordinary life after 30 years in politics ‘’is pretty appealing.'’
LaHood said he is announcing his retirement early to give prospective candidates time to consider a run for the seat, which has been held for nearly a half-century by LaHood and his predecessor, Bob Michel, a Peoria Republican who served as House minority leader.
“There’s no heir apparent. … This will be a wide-open race,” LaHood said.
LaHood considered leaving the House twice in recent years, first to run for governor, then to apply for the presidency of his alma mater, Bradley University. He passed both times, but some Capitol Hill Republicans quietly questioned whether his heart had already left Congress — speculation that LaHood dismissed on Thursday
GOP leaders have said in the past they aren’t worried about losing LaHood’s seat. Democrats say they’ll compete seriously to capture it; Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) called the district “Republican-leaning, but not a Republican lock.”
Two Peoria Republicans said they would consider running to replace LaHood: state Reps. Aaron Schock and David Leitch.
State senator John Sullivan would be a likely Democratic candidate, and he has already spoken with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Republicans also have a number of potential candidates in the wings. Tazewell County Attorney Stu Umholtz, who ran for attorney general last year, and 25-year-old state Rep. Aaron Schock — a protege of LaHood’s — are two of the better-known GOP prospects within the district.
The practical question of how the smoking ban will be enforced was raised by Craig Riggins, an environmental health officer in the county department.
“I know if people are not obeying that, (others) are going to be calling the Health Department (with complaints),” he said.
Working on the law’s enforcement and other ramifications “will be the next big thing on our plate,” said Whitaker.
“Hopefully, we’ll see this get implemented and go well,” he said. “There will be some conflict because people will feel their rights are being infringed upon.”