Saturday, July 07, 2007

A leadership lunch


There wasn’t any progress on the budget at the Capitol today, but lawmakers will be back at it tomorrow.

Today’s special session in the House began with a debate on whether Speaker Michael Madigan was crossing the constitutional line by convening his chamber hours before the time that the governor requested. It ended with Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican, asking what the constitutional grounds for impeachment are. His downstate colleague, Rep. William Black, a Danville Republican, quickly responded that he didn’t think that was the answer to the budget gridlock.

Before the Senate could convene at 2 p.m., pension experts and both chambers were invited to join the leader’s meeting at the governor’s mansion. Guests were served a pasta lunch before beginning a discussion about the state’s public employee pension liability. The media also was invited to the mansion, and was offered beverages, turkey sandwiches and an assortment of cookies while waiting in the downstairs governor's office to hear the outcome of the meeting. Some even had time to take a tour of the mansion.

The governor stepped out of the meeting to share some insight on how the meeting was going. “It’s a healthy, honest discussion, people expressing their views," he said. "It’s a healthy dialogue, it’s all good.”

Yesterday wasn’t as pleasant for the governor, as the House shot down a resolution to lease the Illinois Lottery. While the governor didn’t say he was backing away from his proposal to lease the Lottery for $10 billion and borrow an additional $16 billion to cover the state’s pension obligations, he said he was open to new ideas on how to accomplish that. However, he’s not backing down on providing health care for the state’s uninsured and increasing education funding.

“There’s give and take in this process all the time,” Blagojevich said. “You can’t get a budget without give and take. At the same time, you don’t abandon your principles and your values and your priorities. I’m not going to abandon education, I’m not going to abandon health care. I’m flexible on the means.”

Meanwhile House Speaker Michael Madigan, called on the the governor to reduce the rhetoric, a reference to the governor's’s charge that Madigan has become a conservative Republican.

“I simply call upon the governor to stop the personal insults,” he said. “I simply told him that I don’t think it accomplishes anything to be attacking me personally. It doesn’t help with what we’re trying to do with the budget. It doesn’t help relationships in the Capitol Building. I just hope he takes my advice to heart.”

The Republicans didn’t think much was accomplished today at the leader’s meeting.

“We’ve heard all this before,” House Minority Leader Tom Cross said. “The bottom line is we need a leaders meeting, we need a few people to sit around in a room, take a piece of paper and a pencil and figure out how much money we have and how we’re going to spend it.”

The only agreement in the meeting today was that the budgeteers need to get together tomorrow and follow that up with a leaders meeting said Cross.

The budgeteers are schedule to meet tomorrow at 4 p.m. and a leaders meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Both chambers are scheduled to convene at 4 p.m. as well.

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