Tuesday, June 26, 2007

One-month budget by Friday

Whatever needed to be worked out among the Republican and Democratic caucuses of each chamber appears to be worked out. At least, there’s enough of an agreement for the legislative leaders to publicly say that the House is expected to approve it Wednesday and the Senate to consider it Friday.

The summary from House Speaker Michael Madigan and House Minority Leader Tom Cross: It’s a maintenance budget that simply extends the fiscal year 2007 budget with some changes. But it has no new revenue and no “member initiatives,” or “pork barrel spending” that pays for special projects in legislators’ districts.

Next on the discussion table: new revenue to support a full, 12-month state budget. “We haven’t had a discussion on available revenue,” Cross said outside of the governor’s Capitol office Tuesday afternoon, “and we had no discussion about electricity.”

Electric rate freeze action is still possible in the next couple of days — Senate President Emil Jones Jr. said he’s just about fed up. “I resent all the stalling that’s been taking place as it relates to those negotiations,” he said after budget talks. “We may, even though I’m opposed to it, let them go ahead and have the freeze.”

He said he could call the measure as early as Wednesday once he talks to his members. He added that after several meetings to discuss rate relief, the people who advocated for extending a 10-year rate freeze that expired in January are suddenly starting to change their minds. “Now they’re saying exactly what I’ve been telling them all along: The freeze does not solve the problem,” Jones said. “But now they’re throwing different things into play, so therefore, maybe I’ll go ahead and let [Sen. Gary Forby] call the freeze. I’ll find out tomorrow.”

- The House is expected to vote on the one-month budget Wednesday, adjourn Friday and come back for more overtime session the second week of July.
- The Senate will get the budget and have to follow the rules to hear it three times before they can consider it for good on Friday.
- Senate President Emil Jones may let his chamber debate an electricity rate freeze, depending on how his caucus feels about it Wednesday morning.
- The next leaders’ meeting, whenever it’s scheduled, could likely talk about revenue ideas.

Rep. Froehlich changes from an R to a D
State Rep. Paul Froehlich of Schaumburg will join the Democrats Wednesday after considering himself a “lifelong Republican,” according to a press release. He served as Schaumburg Township Republican Committeeman since 1998, so he’s also resigning from that panel.

“I became a Republican because the party permitted a broad range of views and welcomed moderates with open arms,” he said in the release. “Over the last six years, that has changed. I, however, have not. The same beliefs I held last week, I hold today.” He said he thought he could best serve his constituents as a Democrat, and his constituents in the northwest suburbs of Chicago are leaning more Democratic these days.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross said he’s unhappy about Froehlich’s switch, but there’s nothing he can do about it. “This is a guy that decided that he wanted to do what was best for him, unfortunately at the expense, perhaps, of his constituents,” Cross said before entering the governor’s office for budget talks Tuesday. “I’m not going to comment on what he did or didn’t do. I think he did what was best for his own political future.”

After budget talks, Cross said he’s likely to target Froehlich in the fall election campaigns, “just like I will in all the races where I think that we have a chance, and clearly I think we have a chance there. He will be on a list with others [where] we think we can have success in the fall of ’08.”

House Speaker Michael Madigan said he did not recruit Froehlich, who supported another Schaumburg official, now state Rep. Fred Crespo. He won a seat on a local board with Republican support but ran as a Democrat to win a House district seat last fall.

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