Nobody reported anything about the Senate Democratic caucus yesterday, where the spending and revenue-generating plans (including the casino expansion proposal) put forward by Senate President Emil Jones and Gov. Rod Blagojevich went down in flames. For details on that, you’ll have to be a Capitol Fax subscriber. For the rest of you, here’s the public roundup of yesterday’s events…
House Democrats on Wednesday advanced Speaker Michael Madigan’s limited-growth state budget plan that would pump $400 million in new money into education but omit the expansive health-care program that Gov. Rod Blagojevich has made the centerpiece of his second term.
With lawmakers staring at a midnight Thursday adjournment deadline, Madigan’s decision to move forward with a plan far less expansive than what Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones wanted symbolized the fractured state of Illinois’ top Democratic leadership. It was questionable whether Blagojevich and Jones would accept Madigan’s plan, setting up the potential for an overtime legislative session that would empower Republicans in crafting any final budget.
Some Democrats view what passed Wednesday night as House Speaker Michael Madigan’s starting point for further negotiations. Others see it as a stop-gap measure to keep state government going if the General Assembly runs into a lengthy overtime session. There is widespread belief among lawmakers that Blagojevich will call them back into special session beginning June 1 if they do not approve his plan to provide health insurance to all Illinoisans.
“I think putting it in the hands of the Senate Democrats, if we need to have a continuing appropriation so things don’t shut down, I think it’s a decent start,” said Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley.
* Daily Herald…
The budget includes provisions but no money for things like pay raises for members of the state employees’ union. Supporters said the governor’s free to come up with the money from elsewhere or reduce the workforce to come up with the cash for the raises.
Similarly, the budget includes a more than $500 million increase in the state’s contribution to the state pension system. But the actual funding portion doesn’t include money to cover it. Again, the answer was the governor could probably find the money somewhere in the budget.
What that means is the pension funds will get their money (no matter what the Republicans claim) because it will come right off the top. Funding for the rest of state government will be shortchanged as a result.
The Madigan budget plan would increase state spending by $800 million. Of that, $500 million would come from growth in the state’s tax base, while the balance would come from ending several corporate tax breaks.
The proposal would boost education spending by about $400 million, a far cry from the $1.5 billion boost Blagojevich originally envisioned for schools.
No new funds exist for the cash-strapped Chicago Transit Agency, but Cook County Hospital would get a $100 million grant under the Madigan plan.
* Daily Herald…
“That’s a heck of a lot of money,” said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, casting off critics’ contention this is a “no-growth budget.” […]
But even before it emerged, the plan was assailed as woefully lacking by interest groups and those backing Blagojevich’s nearly $60 billion budget proposal that would sell off the lottery and impose various new business taxes to pay for health coverage for all Illinoisans and ultimately provide billions more for schools. […]
“It addresses needs rather than wishes,” said state Rep. John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat.
Although the Senate is under the same constitutional deadline as the House, powerless Senate Republicans will remain that way after today, regardless. The Senate’s Democratic majority is so overwhelming that even under the “three-fifths'’ rule, Democrats still will be able to pass a budget bill there without any Republican votes.
Nonetheless, Cross said, if he gets a seat at the table, he’s bringing Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson of Greenville with him — whether Blagojevich, Madigan and Jones want him there or not. “Frank’s going to be there,'’ Cross said. “He’ll go with me.'’
* Meanwhile, the governor seems to be preparing for the summer session and may bring his family to town. I broke this yesterday, and Bernie leads his column off with the item today…
Illinois’ first family seems to be contemplating a significant stay in the Executive Mansion this summer.
“In the event we are in overtime session this summer, Mrs. (PATTI) BLAGOJEVICH called the Springfield Park District to ask about swim lessons for ANNIE and ice skating opportunities for AMY,” said REBECCA RAUSCH, spokeswoman for Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH. […]
This, of course, is good news for those who have long thought the governor and his family, who live in Chicago, should get to know Springfield a little better. It’s not such good news for lawmakers, who just may think they have personally spent enough time in the capital city this spring.
* More budget stuff, compiled by Paul…
* Illinoize: What’s left before adjournment?
* House Dems approve limited growth budget
* House approves budget proposal
* Democrats need deal today or it’s overtime
* State House approves budget with new business tax
* Dan Miller: Here’s one vote for budget sanity
* Editorial: Hold off on health care expansion