Friday, May 22, 2009

Haven't crossed the finish line, yet

By Bethany Jaeger

Gov. Pat Quinn confirmed that he could wait to sign a major capital construction package that recently passed both chambers until the General Assembly sends him an operating budget and ethics reforms.

"I don't plan to sign anything until we finish our work," Quinn said at a Statehouse news conference this morning, later adding, "I don't want to stop until we reach the finish line."

The major infrastructure program, which won House approval last night, has not yet been sent to the governor's desk. And it still has $1.5 billion left to earmark for projects.

The operating budget has not yet been negotiated. However, the House has approved basic portions of the budget that must be funded regardless of whether lawmakers approve a state income tax increase. The spending would include money to keep the lights on, as well as funding for education and Medicaid, which have to meet federal requirements to capture economic stimulus funds. The Senate is expected to take up those basic portions of the budget soon, but some lawmakers fear that such a temporary spending plan would take pressure off to approve a full-year budget by the end of the month.

Quinn said, "I don't think that would be the best way to go."

Meanwhile, the effort to advance government reforms recommended by the governor's Illinois Reform Commission appear stalled. While committees were scheduled for this afternoon to hear testimony from commission Chairman Patrick Collins, Senate Republicans say that some of the legislation never got assigned to be heard in committee.

According to GOP Spokeswoman Patty Schuh, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno is now sponsoring a measure to establish campaign contribution limits that mirror the commission's recommendations ($2,400 for individuals and $5,000 for corporations). Schuh said it was not assigned to committee for debate this afternoon. Senate Bill 350 also includes a provision that would set a $10,000 limit for donations from a candidate's political party organization.

"Collins is in the building," Schuh said. He and other commissioners "came here today at the request of the Senate president to go over their report."

Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, said committees are scheduled to hear at least a pair of House Speaker Michael Madigan's reform measures that were approved yesterday.

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