Sunday, July 08, 2007

Numbers on the table


Finally, there’s a number on the table for the budget. Unfortunately, lawmakers still can’t agree on what the number is.

The budgeteers submitted a report to the governor and the legislative leaders at the leader’s meeting today at the governor’s mansion. Legislators also were invited to attend.

“The report from the budgeteers appeared to be inconclusive,” House Speaker Michael Madigan said. “My expectation is that the governor will continue to work with the budgeteers to make the report more definitive, more concrete, which will better able us to move forward on this budget.”

While budget negotiations appeared to move forward, legislators still aren’t on the same page. “There was a piece of paper with numbers, and the numbers are the numbers, but in terms of the discussion, there was disagreement,” Madigan said.

Sen. Donne Trotter, his chamber’s budget expert, said so far, there’s an $874 million hole in the budget.

“Before we start talking about any kind of growth, we have to first recognize what that hole is and those responsibilities on payments we have to do, pensions and all that,” he said. “There’s certainly no dollars for expansion of education, no expansions for Illinois Covered or any kind of health care. No dollars for constitutional officers, and certainly no dollars for mass transportation, for [the] RTA with the hole.”

Regardless of the discourse in the room, Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson thought today’s meeting was productive. “This is a big first step,” he said.

Tomorrow the House will convene in the afternoon. It’s not clear if the Senate will actually meet. Today, the Senate met for about 10 minutes before adjourning. The House convened a meeting of the whole to hear testimony from the Teachers’ Retirement System that is scheduled to continue on Monday.

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