* Lots of stories comparing Pat Quinn to Rod Blagojevich over the past few days. Here are some…
Hynes Hines: Echoes of Rod
* Crain’s: Mr. Quinn borrowed a page from predecessor Rod Blagojevich by spinning a doomsday scenario of social services cutbacks if lawmakers don’t approve his tax hike.
* Tribune: Seeds of mistrust between the legislature and the governor’s office flowered during the antagonistic reign of Rod Blagojevich. But they have resurfaced under new Gov. Pat Quinn, whose budget comments are ever-evolving.
* Erickson: Last year, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich publicly threatened to cut funding for 4-H programs and then reversed course just four days later. He did the same thing earlier in his audacious tenure when he threatened to close prisons in Vandalia, Pontiac and Stateville. For now, millions of Illinoisans who rely on state services must watch the annual debacle unfold again and worry.
* GateHouse: When former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached in January, there was hope at the Capitol that things would run more smoothly. But with the start of a new fiscal year quickly approaching, Illinois is still without a budget.
* Rep. Jack Franks: It was a “my way or the highway” approach that Blagojevich used in an attempt to bully the legislature to his will. And it failed miserably. Thankfully, he was removed from office. Unfortunately, Team Blagojevich was not, and so Illinois finds itself on the brink of a man-made disaster – its abysmal fiscal condition coupled with a lack of a plan for balancing our state budget. The same team that created programs that the legislature never approved is now pushing Gov. Quinn to continue funding these programs.
* The SJ-R has a slightly different take: Nobody can accuse you of being Blagojevich. You’ve been in Springfield working on the budget. You’re still the only elected official under the dome who has proposed a full, balanced budget. Blagojevich is gone. The result is still the same: Gridlock. Cowardice. Avoidance of tough decisions. What does that tell us about legislators? Hit the accelerator, governor. Drive right at them. All that’s at stake is our state.
Quinn has given conflicting details on what he ultimately will do if lawmakers don’t come up with more money by Wednesday. He’s adopted various income-tax increase plans in trying to find one that will sell with lawmakers, including switching from a permanent hike to a temporary one and reducing the rate on corporations. He’s pledged to make drastic cuts in services, then countered by saying he would never let that happen. He’s predicted massive layoffs in state government, then scaled back.
“As much as we know this guy, we don’t know him. He has changed every week,” said Sen. Donne Trotter of Chicago, who is the lead budget negotiator for Senate Democrats. “This is a dance, and everyone’s trying to get to know each other.”
* Two former governors offer advice…
“The key is, I remember in ‘91 one of the things we thought helped us was finally, by about the third week in July, the members, the rank and file, wanted to go home. They’d seen all the movies and played all the golf they wanted to play and eaten enough at all the restaurants. They were really tired,” Edgar said.
“It was an interesting phenomenon. You could just tell the rank and file finally just started beefing so much I think the leaders - knew they needed to get something resolved.” […]
“I don’t know why the governor would sign the budget they gave him and then make all these horrendous cuts,” Thompson said.
But if Quinn does sign it, Thompson said he’d take it for what it is, a six-month plan, and not a real budget.
* Doug Whitley offers a word of caution…
The risk for Republicans is that they’ll be tangled up in a budget crisis that, so far, has largely been the responsibility of the Democratic majority.
Even if they get many of the changes they want, Republicans could share in the blame if the stalemate drags on all summer and ultimately produces an unpopular tax increase and painful service cuts.
“By winning on the intellectual component of budgetary discussions, they risk the Democrats outflanking them on the political message,” said Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
* More disagreement…
The governor signed SB 1609, allowing the state to refinance debt. According to House Democrats, the plan would take advantage of a 4 percent interest rate and save $600 million next fiscal year. It would save $237 million over the life of the bonds.
The bill has been tied to the legislature’s version of a bare bones budget, which has been dubbed the “50 percent budget” because it would fund human services at half the level proposed by the governor.
But Quinn’s spokeswoman Libby White said this afternoon: “There’s no link between the two. This was our bill that was a part of the governor’s original budget proposal.”
* The Daily Herald editorial board is starting to see reality…
The reality is, the state’s financial problems run so deep that they cannot be fixed with spending cuts alone. By one estimate, the entire state work force could be laid off and that still wouldn’t come close to erasing the $24 billion budget deficit.
By one estimate? OK, I won’t nitpick.
* Um, Fran, I did live in Cook County.
* ADDED: $3.5 million cut could cost $2 billion
* ADDED: Cullerton Urges Colleagues To “Consider” The Senate Tax Plan
* Illinois Student Assistance Commission approves plan for student aid cuts
* Governor signs bill to refinance debt
* Could budget cuts spur crime in Peoria?
* Historic forts await word on state budget
* Politics as usual becomes nightmare
* Senate Dems have budget solution
* Ill. budget crisis should rule out business as usual
* Lawmakers look to pension system to help balance budget
* Quinn’s policies hurt those he says he wants to help
* PJStar: Illinois kicks disabled out of wheelchairs - again