Members of the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives concluded their fall "veto" session on Thursday without resolving state government's lingering, worsening budget troubles. Here's what some area lawmakers had to say about the situation.
Members of the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives concluded their fall "veto" session on Thursday without resolving state government's lingering, worsening budget troubles.
Soon after lawmakers wrapped up business Thursday afternoon, Gov. Rod Blagojevich acted on Senate Bill 1103, which the General Assembly sent him in October to restore more than $230 million in budget cuts made during the summer. Blagojevich approved some of the restorations, such as funding for substance abuse treatment centers, but not others, such as funding for state historic sites.
Here's what some area lawmakers had to say about the situation:
Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield: "I'm encouraged he finally restored some of the budget cuts, but I'm concerned that not all of it was restored. It surprises me that there's not an urgency here from House and Senate Democrats to get something done. We have to get the governor engaged (in budget talks) in January and February rather than wait until May."
Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield: "It's just another unconscionable act by the governor (to maintain some cuts). For the life of me I don't understand why the governor does this except to be mean-spirited. I think we need to address the short-term borrowing. Beyond that, there's taxes and where do we go? We'd have to override the governor because he's going to veto it."
Rep. Gary Hannig, D-Litchfield: "Maybe we (legislators) could come back and agree to a smaller budget that would reduce spending. That would be a difficult thing to do. the governor has put this proposal on the table to reduce spending by 8 percent. There's some hesitation to do it that way. We have to take some kind of action. We can't maintain the budget where it is."
Rep. Rich Myers, R-Colchester: "If the Democrats can't come up with a reasonable approach to paying our bills and filling the budget hole, then we are left in a real predicament. The Republicans would like to be involved in discussions and negotiations. We need to discuss what can be funded, what needs to be funded and what can be cut. At this point, it would not be productive for Republicans to say "Here is our plan' only to have the Democrats shoot it down."
Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville: "There's going to need to be some tough votes. This is not one of those things where we won't have cuts. There will probably be some type of revenue increases and cuts because this is bad."
Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg: "One obvious solution is short term borrowing, but we'd still have the underlying problem. We definitely need to be making cuts. What's the use of for us to make up a list and it is ignored? We have not been part of the discussions."
Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville: "I honestly don't think anything will happen until we come back (next year) for a new General Assembly. Hopefully there will be a different attitude around here. If we have to come up with some sort of (new) revenue source, the only way we are going to do that is if we include all of the (lawmakers) in both chambers and the governor's office. Everybody needs to be at the table."
Rep. Donald Moffitt, R-Gilson, said lawmakers should have stayed in Springfield beyond Thursday so they could deal with state government's budget difficulties.
"It's a shame that we're going home without addressing the budget problem, but it's the decision of those in charge," he said. "Because of the state's budget and payment practices, it probably is going to cause some (state service) providers to fail. And then where will those people go for the services that were being provided?"
Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria, said he was pleased that the governor's action on the budget Thursday restored money for substance-abuse treatment centers.
"There are a lot of people who have been suffering throughout the state. And when people can't get treatment, they head for the emergency room in the hospitals or wind up in jail," Leitch said. "I think the important thing now is whether (the governor) releases the money and whether there's money there to pay it."
He said he was disappointed that during the veto session, lawmakers didn't consider short-term borrowing or other proposals to ease the burden on those who are owed money by the state.
Rank-and-file lawmakers "need to make it very clear to the leaders how urgent the situation is," he said, adding that House Republican Leader Tom Cross is "very aware of the seriousness of the situation."
Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, wants lawmakers to return before the end of the calendar year to the State Capitol to tackle budget problems.
"What I see as necessary right now is for the (legislative) leaders and the governor to get together to come up with a plan to deal with the overall budget crisis," he said. "I don't think we can wait till January. We've got some very serious, critical situations going on here that need our attention."
Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria, said Blagojevich should have used the veto session as an opportunity to meet with legislative leaders about the budget.
"You've got real people's lives suffering here, and that's a tragedy," Risinger said. "He acts as the Lone Ranger in this and points fingers, rather than embrace everybody to come together as a group and find a solution."
"Being in the minority party, that puts us in a weakened position to try to make this happen," he said. "What can I do? I can make my voice heard and I will, with both our (Republican) leaders and the Democratic leaders to at least sit down and talk about it."
Adriana Colindres can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Doug Finke can be reached at email@example.com.