Wednesday, June 27, 2007

House approves a stopgap measure

The House has now passed two budgets, the first, of course, held hostage until electric rate relief is figured out with utilities. The one-month budget approved by the House this evening keeps the 2007 level of funding for most state operations, except pension and debt payments are a bit higher to meet the prescribed fiscal year 2008 levels.

“If we don’t take some action to authorize the comptroller to continue paying bills, starting Monday when that office opens up, the state will slowly begin to grind to a halt,” said Rep. Gary Hannig, the Litchfield Democrat and budget negotiator, during a House committee earlier Wednesday. “So the four leaders and the governor were able to come to an agreement, at least on this issue, on a method to keep state government open for an additional 31 days.”

House Republican Leader Tom Cross used the one-month budget as an opportunity to blame Democrats, who control both chambers and all state executive offices, for still being unable to draft an agreed budget a month after the constitutional deadline. “All 67 of you, on your side of the aisle, all 67 of you are responsible for the failure of not passing a budget in time for the people of the state of Illinois,” he said during House floor debate this evening. He added all state lawmakers have to accept the state has less than $800 million in new revenue to balance the budget, and they can’t get everything they want.

Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat Woodstock who frequently clashes with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, said the temporary budget simply defers tough choices. He was one of three representatives, the others Republicans, to reject the emergency budget.

Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican, said the next pressure point is August, when the state has to make its first payments of fiscal year ’08 to elementary and secondary education systems. He said he and other Republicans would approve the one-month budget as a stopgap measure to keep the state operating through July, but he added, “Don’t count on it in August.”

If all goes as planned, the measure moves to the Senate right away so that chamber can abide by the rules and read it on three different days before approving it and sending it to the governor Friday, the last business day of fiscal year ’07.

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