*For months, Comptroller DAN HYNES has been warning that the state’s budget problems are creating an ever-growing backlog in bills to be paid, a backlog that has now reached crisis proportions. No one apparently listens to Hynes, so let’s move on.
Lately, Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH has issued warnings that state income is going to fall far short of outgo. But no one trusts Blagojevich, so let’s move on.
Last week, the General Assembly’s green-eyeshade people announced that state revenues are tanking and the shortfall could hit as much as $2.8 billion, depending on how you look at the numbers. Did that warning finally make a difference? Not really.
Ask any lawmaker in Springfield last week for the veto session about the state’s budget issues and you got somber statements about how serious things are and how some really tough choices are going to have to be made. Lawmakers then went home after only two days of a scheduled three-day session without doing a thing about the budget problems.
By the time they are scheduled to come back in January, the state will have accumulated two months’ more worth of bills that can’t be paid on time and two months’ more of tax collections falling far short of projections.
So much for making tough choices because the state is facing a financial crisis.
*Rep. GARY HANNIG, D-Litchfield, is one of the negotiators trying to figure out what to do with the budget mess, which nearly everyone agrees is going to require more and severe spending cuts.
While in the House chamber Thursday, Hannig noted that at that very moment, the Capitol rotunda was filled with demonstrators wanting more government money.
“The message hasn’t gotten out to citizens,” Hannig said, in one of the understatements of the year.
*If the impending loss of his chief legislative ally, Senate President EMIL JONES, D-Chicago, was supposed to change Blagojevich’s modus operandi, it hasn’t happened yet.
Blagojevich responded to what he calls a financial crisis by doing what he does best, issuing a press release that demands lawmakers take some action. The governor issued his four-point action plan Tuesday, a day before lawmakers returned to Springfield. They were not pleased that the governor once again sprang something on them at the last minute and expected them to blindly vote on it. As noted above, they didn’t.
Compounding the frustration was that Blagojevich, as usual, wasn’t in Springfield with lawmakers. Roddy was in California attending an environmental conference. That didn’t go over very well with lawmakers, either. They expected (foolishly) that with Blagojevich calling the situation a crisis and demanding action by the General Assembly, he might actually be in Springfield twisting arms. Hah.
If Blagojevich wants to turn around his relationship with the legislature, he needs to stop his traditional way of dealing with lawmakers, which is basically to treat them with contempt.
*From Blagojevich’s perspective, the trip to California was probably far more productive than staying in Illinois dealing with our problems. He got national exposure during a short interview on MSNBC to share his expertise on the environment. Apparently breathing air can make someone an environmental expert.
In the 3 1/2-minute interview, Blagojevich can twice be heard getting cues from a staffer in the background. One of those led Blagojevich to warn of the dangers of “carbon deforestation,” whatever it is.
At another point, it sounds like a toilet is flushing in the background, although the governor’s office insisted the interview took place while Blagojevich was in a car. It isn’t clear what sort of automotive noise can produce a similar sound.
*One part of Blagojevich’s emergency budget plan is to ask the federal government for $1 billion a year for the next three years.
Now imagine you are a banker and someone comes in and says, “I’ve screwed my finances into the ground. Gimme money.” Are you gong to say, “Sure, how much do you want?” Right.
More than a few lawmakers, including Hannig, think it’s unlikely the feds are going to step in and that it would be foolish for the state to rely on that for getting out of our current mess.
“That’s like hoping to win the lottery,” Hannig said. “That’s not necessarily the best way to plan your family finances.”