Thursday, June 21, 2007

We're in business for one more month

Budget staffs of all four Democratic and Republican leaders and the governor’s office are working throughout the weekend to craft a one-month budget, potentially avoiding a state government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts July 1. They did the same thing in 2004. It also buys some time for the leaders to agree on a full, 12-month budget.

“Today, we actually made a little bit of progress,” said Gov. Rod Blagojevich, in person, in front of his Statehouse office, standing next to Senate President Emil Jones Jr. “We actually finally agreed on something, and the agreement was that we have a lot of work to do.”

But he still bashed House Speaker Michael Madigan’s limited-growth budget approved by his chamber last month, which the governor said is now dead because a majority of Senators rejected it in a non-binding resolution Wednesday. And nearly two-dozen House Democrats signed a letter to indicate that they were willing to negotiate on Madigan’s budget, too.

Blagojevich said, “We’re back to square one,” and quoted Winston Churchill. “This is not the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning. And it is a new opportunity to begin anew and begin fresh.”

He might even be willing to talk about a budget that wouldn’t rely on a gross receipts tax for major revenue, according to Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson after the budget meeting. “He didn’t say it is off the table, but he said we’re going to proceed ahead without the gross receipts tax,” Watson said. “I think that’s a significant step for him.” Watson also said, “I think we made progress today, first time, that we really kind of talked about a budget that might have some light at the end of the tunnel.”

The leaders aren’t exactly holding hands and singing “Cum Ba Ya,” however. Madigan said there’s “a five-way agreement in concept” to enact a temporary budget, but “there are items to be negotiated.”

Hey, it’s a start. And FYI, when the leaders went around the room to state their priorities for this “clean slate” budget, here’s what they reportedly said:
Blagojevich — affordable health insurance for all
Jones — education
Madigan — a “workable” budget
Watson — to “live within in our means and pay our bills”
Cross — unfunded pension liability and an infrastructure program

The chambers are out until Tuesday, when we hope to see more progress!

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