Friday, June 29, 2007

Surprise: Special session


To the surprise of all four legislative leaders, the governor has called a special session scheduled to begin July 5th. Though the leaders came to an earlier agreement that both chambers would take next week off to celebrate the July 4th holiday, the governor said it would be more patriotic to spend the holiday week working on a budget.

“Now it’s time for us to get the real business of the people done,” he said. “It’s time for us to finish a budget that isn’t just a one-month, stopgap emergency budget.”

He said legislators will meet every day, including weekends, until they can agree on a budget that addresses unfunded pension liability, education funding and health care. He went on to say that the emergency budget was necessary to keep the government running; however, “It’s just a Republican budget in disguise.”

He also called Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, “the conservative Republican ally” of House Speaker Michael Madigan, quoting comments that they wouldn’t support any new revenue.

Ending his meeting with the media, the governor did promise to sign the temporary budget that won the approval of both chambers. Needless to say, leaders were shocked a new schedule was dropped on them at the last minute, but they were willing to work.

Now that there’s a special session, legislators will receive a per diem to cover the cost of their stay in Springfield. “We call it a teacher a day,” Watson said. “$40,000 is about what you spend on a special session.”

The governor’s last words were the legislators could forfeit their per diem if they were worried about keeping costs down.

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