STATEHOUSE INSIDER Column for June 3, 2007
*It was a jaw-dropping display Friday in the Illinois Senate.
Sen. MIKE JACOBS, D-East Moline, unloaded on Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH in front of a bunch of reporters. No one could remember seeing anything quite like it before.
Jacobs is viewed as the clinching vote in the Senate on Blagojevich’s universal health care plan. The governor desperately wanted the Senate to pass it last week so he could claim some kind of victory in the General Assembly. To use baseball parlance, Blagojevich’s batting average this spring is way below the Mendoza line.
Jacobs reportedly was going to vote for the bill, but changed his mind, infuriating Blagojevich. According to Jacobs, the governor threatened his political career if he didn’t vote for the bill.
“I can see why he can’t get what he wants, because you can’t get what you want when you sit around and pout,” Jacobs said. “He acted like a spoiled child who was not willing to compromise on anything.”
Later, Jacobs said Blagojevich is “untrustworthy, a man you can’t believe.” Whew.
The thing is, if you talk to lawmakers, you sense a lot of them feel exactly the same way. Jacobs was blunter and more public, but he is hardly alone in how he feels about Blagojevich.
So Blagojevich gets into a big fight with a senator who then lets the world know about the governor’s crude tactics. And the really pathetic thing is that it was all for nothing.
Whatever happened in the Senate, Blagojevich’s health care plan was going nowhere in the House. Lawmakers say their constituents aren’t clamoring for it and, worse, they fear it is a colossal financial disaster waiting to happen. If Blagojevich thought a Senate vote was somehow going to give universal health care enough momentum to become law, he’s more out of touch than even his critics thought.
*Speaking of Blagojevich tactics ... Most everyone thought that, as the Thursday midnight adjournment deadline neared, Blagojevich would issue an edict calling for a special session to continue work on a new budget. Most everyone also expected his proclamation would be accompanied by a lot of gas about lawmakers shirking their duties, ignoring the little schoolchildren and the uninsured, blah, blah, blah.
However, House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, was ready. Before Blagojevich could issue a grandiose edict, Madigan set out a schedule for the House to continue meeting in June. Thus, there was no need for Blagojevich to call lawmakers into special session.
There’s another twist. From January through May, lawmakers get $125 in expense money each day they are in Springfield. Through April, House members were entitled to $3,750 in expense money. Not bad.
After May 31, though, the expense money goes away, another little incentive to finish work on time. The exception is if they are called into special session. By pre-empting any thoughts Blagojevich had of calling a special session, Madigan managed to save taxpayers a little money.
*The General Assembly is officially into overtime session now, for the second time in four years. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
Blagojevich for his my-way-or-the-highway negotiating style. Madigan for refusing to start negotiating a budget until a week before the session was to conclude. Senate President EMIL JONES, D-Chicago, for blindly following Blagojevich’s agenda rather than listening to his rank-and-file members, who are far less enthused about it.
Now Republicans get involved, and reaching a budget compromise is that much tougher. Great job, guys.
*For five months, lawmakers mucked around accomplishing nothing on things like electric rate relief, school funding, property tax relief and on and on and on. But they did manage to finally approve a supplemental spending bill for the current budget, which ends in another month.
It contains some good stuff, like money long promised to school districts for construction projects and a program for hospitals to collect more federal money for treating the poor. It also includes cash for the 10 percent pay raises lawmakers previously approved, but never collected because there was no money for them.
Lawmakers could have left the pay raise money out, as a symbolic gesture that they are willing to share their constituents’ financial pain until the legislature’s work is finished. Of course they didn’t, which is one reason they are held in such high regard.
Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or email@example.com.