Friday, June 29, 2007

"Things are really in the toilet at work"

I thought Sen. Donne Trotter of Chicago was ad-libbing when the Senate was about to approve an emergency, one-month budget Friday morning, but he wasn’t. On the Senate floor, he read his actual horoscope published in today’s Chicago Sun-Times:

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): … “You can’t expect things to run smoothly right now. There are glitches, delays, confused communications and short tempers. Things are really in the toilet at work. Just take it all one minute at a time. That’s all you can ever do anyway.”

Everyone cracked up, not just because Trotter said “toilet” on the Senate floor, but because the horoscope couldn’t paint a more accurate picture of the “glitches, delays, confused communications and short tempers” that plague the four legislative leaders and the governor in their drawn out process of crafting an FY08 budget. They were supposed to have one in place by May 31.

Senate Republicans made sure to highlight leadership problems during floor debate. Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, said there’s only one difference between the “personality politics” in today’s one-party, Democratic rule and the one-party, Republican rule in 1994: “We had an engaged governor in Jim Edgar, who was here every day, who managed state government well.”

Dillard served as Edgar’s chief of staff. Dillard continued, “We don’t need to pass a resolution like the House did to remind the governor that he needs to be in Springfield working with our four legislative leaders, especially the two gentlemen from his own political party.” But Dillard voted in favor of the emergency budget to prevent state services and payrolls from shutting down because no budget was in place before the new fiscal year starts July 1.

Freshman Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, told his fellow senators that the budget-setting process has been an “utter embarrassment” and that they should take a stronger stance. “You should oppose this bill and force the leaders out of their entrenched corners, into the middle where common ground can be reached. Extending this one month does nothing more than provide cover for the people who need to check their egos at the door and get something done for the people of the state of Illinois on a long-term basis.”

He voted to reject the one-month budget with five other Republican senators: Bill Brady of Bloomington, Dan Cronin of Elmhurst, Randy Hultgren of Winfield, Carole Pankau of Roselle and Dave Syverson of Rockford.

The only Democrat to vote against the measure was Sen. Martin Sandoval of Chicago. He said he wouldn’t vote for a budget that fails to fund school construction and mass transportation but that continues to pay chauffeurs who drive department heads to meetings and pilots who fly the governor between Chicago and Springfield. “We have condoned his behavior,” Sandoval said. “You will have financed the friendly skies of Illinois that Gov. Rod Balgojevich flies day in and day out in the month of July.”

Then he spoke directly to Senate President Emil Jones Jr. “President Jones, I know you don’t like this budget. I see it in your eyes. I see it in the tone and the texture of your face. And you know what, President Jones, I don’t either … I cannot and will not support this or any other no-growth budget that perpetuates the ongoing government shutdowns of the status quo in my community and in other communities from Cairo to Chicago. No schools, no buses, no tax relief, no growth, no vote. Have a great Fourth of July and keep on fighting.”

Both chambers are scheduled to come back to Springfield Tuesday, July 10, starting another full month of overtime session. (The Senate’s schedule isn’t online, yet, but they’re in session every weekday starting July 10, including the last Saturday and Sunday in July).

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