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Nightmare ahead

Monday, Mar 31, 2008

* Illinois isn’t alone in its budget mess

At least half of the nation’s states are facing budget shortfalls, some of them severe, and policymakers in most of the affected states are proposing and passing often-painful measures to trim costs and close the gaps. Spending on schools is being slashed, after-school programs are being curtailed and teachers are being notified of potential layoffs. Health-care assistance is being cut for the elderly, the disabled and the poor. Some government offices, such as motor vehicle department locations, will start closing on weekends, and some state workers are receiving pink slips.

* Things are really bad out in California…

California is facing the worst budget crisis, with a $16 billion shortfall, and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a $4.8 billion cut in education services. About 20,000 teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses and other support staff members have received notice of potential layoffs, according to the state’s Education Department.

* What makes Illinois different from all other states is the ongoing feud between Democratic leaders and the Tony Rezko corruption trial. Last year was bad, but this year could be much, much worse

[House GOP Leader Tom Cross] called Blagojevich “toxic” in a taping of WMAQ-TV’s “City Desk” program.

Cross said it was hard for the governor to advance his agenda because of the allegations coming of out of the federal trial of political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko.

“He has an inability right now to get that message out because he’s playing defense on the other issue. Right or wrong, that’s what’s happening. … It makes for an ineffective governor,” Cross said on “City Desk.”

* Because of Rezko and the feud, stuff like this will be all the rage at the Statehouse this spring…

State Rep. Jack Franks says his first priority when the General Assembly reconvenes Tuesday will be to get his constitutional amendment to recall state elected officials passed in the House. […]

House Speaker Michael Madigan also supports the recall amendment.

* Combine all that nastiness with a serious revenue shortfall, and you get a very negative session

State Rep. George Scully, D-Flossmoor, said it could be a rough year for anyone looking for new money as lawmakers focus on paying outstanding bills and getting a construction plan off the ground.

“I think this would be a bad year to bring up new topics,” he said.

* Throw in demands from Republicans for tax cuts, and it gets even more toxic…

Anyone purchasing motor fuels in Illinois could realize savings at the pump if Illinois legislators would pass House Bill 6318, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville. […]

Black said the majority of Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly are opposed to his current bill, saying the state cannot afford it, even though last year’s budget predictions on income from the sales tax were based on gas prices of about $2 per gallon.

* More budget stuff, compiled by Kevin…

* McQueary: Go ahead - give your input

* Kane County to lobby for share of capital bill

* Illinois must have capital funding bill

* EDITORIAL: State is left with gambling to fund capital plan

* Sen. proposes chance to recall Ill. officials

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:50 am:

    I hope Rep. Scully is right. If the Gov. and GA can produce a coherent and reasonable program to pay outstanding bills, as well as a capital plan, I would consider the upcoming session a rousing success. Given the state of the economy and the budget, the timing is not right for anything “new.”

    Let’s take recall off the table as well. It’s only aimed at Blago and distracts from serious business.

  2. - Ghost - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:56 am:

    I predict we will not have a budget until Dec, at the earliest. If (when) Rezko gets convicted looks for the Gov remianing sanity to cliff dive. He will be looking to put in even more spending in order to try and slavage his decaying rep and distratc from the allegations of corruption with new health care spending etc which should make add to Rich’s riches in a banner setting year.

  3. - Trafficmatt - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:56 am:

    Rich - Nice to have you back. Hope you are all “tan, rested and ready” for another fun-filled legislative season.

    Kevin did a great job while you were sipping Mai-Tai’s.

  4. - Ghost - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:05 am:

    Rich is a news man, he only drinks cheap whiskey out of a dirty glass served by an unhygenic bartender.

  5. - PhilCollins - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:23 am:

    Many people who live in the Chicago area are angry at the Cook Co. Board because they increased the county sales tax rate to 1.75%. The state sales tax rate is 6.25%. Everyone who is mad at the county board should be more angry at Blago. and every state legislator who has voted to increase the state sales tax.

  6. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:33 am:

    No one in the GA wants a fight - they want to be re-elected. So things will get done under the table and out of sight. Deals will be made and debts will be ignored. The Republicans are not strong enough politically to be listened by voters, so while they may carp, they will be ignored.

    The danger is with the Governor. He has nothing to lose. So he will try to shake things up in order to get a better hand to deal with. Time is running out for him and he doesn’t have any friends. No one wants to touch him and he will feel pretty lonely this year. The danger is that he has himself in a corner and no one wants to help him save face enough to escape. We know he is willing to lose ugly, just as he won ugly.

    As he finds himself even more isolated, he may start trying to make news. It is in his nature to be the center of attention. So we have to be careful if or when he starts imploding because he will want to take others down with him.

    The GA will use the connections it had built during the disasterous 2007 session to go around Blagojevich this year. The less Blagojevich appears on television, the better the re-election chances for the GA. So the legislators will be especially careful this year.

    Madigan won. He is in charge. This is his year, but he needs to be ready for a crazy governor desperate to save himself.

  7. - chiatty - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:41 am:

    Here’s a novel thought: We will have a “quiet” legislative session with the Governor making a temporary peace with the legislative leaders. There’s really nothing to be gained by Rod battling this time around. I’m predicting the legislators and lobbyists will be grilling chicken in their own backyards on Memorial Day weekend.

    Go ahead, shoot me down!

  8. - Ghost - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:36 am:

    VanillaMan deals were made under the table last time…deals that emil Jones backed out of and refused to honor at the urging of the Gov.

    Under table deals only work if the people you make them with can be trusted to follow the agreement.

  9. - Bill - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:40 am:

    ===”he doesn’t have any friends”===
    He still has a few. Never underestimate Rod Blagojevich.

  10. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:57 am:

    As long as he has you, Bill.

  11. - Dad - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:59 am:

    Nightmare ahead is an understatement. Your summary of what is happening in California is only a glimpse into our own future, and the longer we take to address the problem will only make the cuts that much more drastic to necessary services. As you point out we are already the most indebted state on a per capita basis.

    The time has come for some true fiscal responsibility, and to address the causes behind our budget deficit. This includes the unaffordable pensions and waste that has crippled our states finacial security. The answer can’t always be to increase revenues (raise taxes), at some point Springfield and local goverments need to become more efficient and steamlined. Each and every department should be mandated to reduce costs by a specific percentage through the budget process. We all would like more to spend, but when confronted with a fixed amount we find a way eliminate that which is unnecessary.

  12. - RMW Stanford - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 12:21 pm:

    “The answer can’t always be to increase revenues (raise taxes), at some point Springfield and local goverments need to become more efficient and steamlined.”

    Thats a good point, it is not a particularly good idea to raise taxes when you are in an economic downturn, or on the verge of one, or to make Illinois less attractive to live and do business in. The State government needs to tight it belt and say that some of the proposed programs might be nice but we can not afford them right now and focus on paying our outstanding bills and those things that are desperately need, like a capital improvement program.

  13. - fed up - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 2:06 pm:

    the state will need a big gambling bill for infastructure needs. put a couple of casinos in chicago and some slots at ohare and midway, plus a boat in waukeegan and country club hills and see what happens.

  14. - Ghost - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 3:16 pm:

    fed up, they have a hole already where gaming revenues are below current projections (which have been spent)

    Not sure how much gold is left in that goose even with an expansion. With high gas prices, unemployment, credit and mortgage problem probabl not as many people heading out for gaming.

  15. - Pothole - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 3:27 pm:

    Less than 2 years ago, the Washington Post was reported that most states had surpluses -

    Why do governments always seem so ill-prepared for economic downturns?

  16. - Cornerfield - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 3:49 pm:

    The recall amendment as proposed seems a bit lame. The “petition for recall would have to come within six months of when the official’s most current term began”. They haven’t even had a chance to really screw up yet by then. So, all they have to do is make it past the first 160 days and then they’re scot-free the rest of their 4 years? I hope I’m reading this wrong.

  17. - Disgusted - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 6:11 pm:

    It’s time,folks. No more closing your eyes against it. We are in a recession,the state is broke, our leaders are crooks and prices, taxes and fees are going through the roof. Time to hunker down, pay the bills, eat less, stay home, read the Fax and watch TV until the state and country are well again. Spending more will not help this time. It will only bring you closer to the Poor House.

  18. - PalosParkBob - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:59 pm:

    I took Kristen McQueary’s advice to “give my input” at Madigan’s Oak Lawn State budget hearing, only to find that the first four hours of “testimony” were already programmed to let every organization in the area looking to take food off our families’ table a opportunity for unchallenged whining.

    There were about 100 attendees there, but outside the four hours the lobbyists were given to state their case for more money, only fifteen minutes were reserved between 9:55 and 10:10 for dissenting opinion from taxpayers.

    What a telling exposition of who really gets a “hearing” from speaker Madigan and his cabal!

  19. - lance - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:34 pm:,2_4_AU17_LETTERS_S1.article

    Palos Park Bob, others have reported a similar exeriences. I’m not sure that this warrants working against a lawmaker but the format it the same.

  20. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 1, 08 @ 12:44 pm:

    Far wiser to invest in a fiber optic networked future than our past addiction to oil/roads/autos, which are far more expensive, especially as the dollar weakens and import prices rise.

    As manufacturing and increasingly services are automated, fewer and fewer jobs will be needed. We’ll either have everyone working for the government (very bad for democracy when centralized monopoly power is expanded because it’s more corrupting and much easier to abuse), or we need to change our economic system.

    A new economic system requires more entreprenuers and inventors, which requires more education and networking…via high speed fiber optics.

    Will we waste our limited taxes on dirty old inefficient and expensive ways of networking, or invest in growing a faster, cleaner, and more efficient future?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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