Friday, July 27, 2007

Will this be worth it?

Gov. Rod Blagojevich called a special session for Saturday morning to discuss another one-month budget, which would prevent the state from shutting down in the politically important month of August. But Senate President Emil Jones Jr. told reporters he’s not interested in a one-month. House Speaker Michael Madigan said the same Thursday. If any action happened this weekend, it most likely would be behind closed doors.

It’s ideal if leaders focus on drafting a state budget that would get us through the entire fiscal year, but a cloud still hangs over the Statehouse budget negotiations. Individual budget items are moving; yet, core disagreements continue. The amount of new money, the method of raising that money and the beneficiaries of that money isn’t worked out yet. Can they hash it out before the existing temporary budget expires July 31?

If not, bad things would start to happen. And it would be worse than if the state had shut down in July, says Kent Redfield, political studies professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “If we’d have shut down in July, people wouldn’t have been able to get into state parks and stuff. But an August shutdown is much, much more serious because of school formulas, the starting of universities and the state fair.”

Public schools expect their first state aid payments in the first half of August, and the Illinois State Fair kicks off August 10. Without state aid payments, schools would be in a bind. And the nine-day State Fair kicks off campaign season for the next elections. The shutdown of public schools and the absence of a state fair would be noticed by the general public, a politically and economically damaging scenario.

But let’s stick with Redfield’s ray of sunshine in another analysis: As frustrating as this session has been since January, it could be a strategy to tame the expectations now rather than let them build each of the governor’s next three years. We can only hope.

Note: Our Public Affairs Reporting intern, Deanese Williams-Harris, finished her internship this week. We wish her the best of luck and thank her for her hard work and dedication.

On another note, I’m taking the weekend off but will be ready for action Monday.


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