BERNARD SCHOENBURG: Dillard blasts governor's budget plan
State Sen. KIRK DILLARD, R-Hinsdale, had some choice words for Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s maneuver last week to slice nearly $500 million from the state budget while pushing for the same amount of new spending on health programs.
“Blagojevich has once again proven that he is the most political governor in Illinois history and has attempted to punish his enemies, reward his few allies and essentially attempt to bribe legislators who sit on a committee which must approve his multibillion-dollar plan for socialized medicine,” Dillard told me.
“Blagojevich pushes the envelope constitutionally by completely rebuking the legislature, which clearly, on a bipartisan basis, rejected his welfare expansion or socialized medicine plans.”
Dillard was referring, of course, to the governor’s amendatory veto of the $59 billion state operating budget sent him by lawmakers.
The spending plan did not include the governor’s pet project to expand health care. But Blagojevich sliced $463 million from that document, while promising to expand eligibility for health care programs.
The governor’s office is being careful not to say the money cut will go directly to health care – an attempt to avoid the appearance of unconstitutional spending without an appropriation – but the expanded health care program would probably cost about the same.
Dillard leveled the bribery charge because of reports that projects sponsored by members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which would approve the new health care rules, weren’t cut out of the budget, as were those of many other lawmakers.
Dillard hopes that someone with legal standing – most likely a medical professional or business that would have to pay higher fees for expanded health care – will “file a challenge to the governor’s overreaching budget shenanigans.”
He also hopes Senate President EMIL JONES JR., D-Chicago, doesn’t stand by his statement that he does not plan to call the budget bill for an override. That means no senator, Democrat or Republican, would have any say in challenging the governor’s cuts.
“I would hope that my Senate Democrat colleagues would at least stand up for the institution of the legislature and demand that a vote, up or down, be taken on the biggest single budgetary veto by a governor in our state’s history,” Dillard said.
Otherwise, he said, the governor’s radical actions “will have ramifications for the future power of the General Assembly.”
Dillard also thinks Blagojevich lost his best public relations tool in cutting some legislators’ progjects but not others. Now it looks like he was “wanting to punish his enemies and reward his friends,” Dillard said.
CINDY DAVIDSMEYER, spokeswoman for Jones, said Jones still does not plan to override the governor’s vetoes.
REBECCA RAUSCH, spokeswoman for Blagojevich, denied there was any bribery or retribution in the governor’s budget action
“We had to make decisions based on what fits into our priorities and what we can afford,” Rausch said.
Dillard was director of legislative affairs for Gov. Jim Thompson and chief of staff for Gov. Jim Edgar.
DANIEL DAVIS, 26, a Springfield resident who is special assistant to the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, says he’d like to run as a Democrat against U.S. Rep. JOHN SHIMKUS, R-Collinsville.
“It’s a very unique district,” Davis said of the 19th Congressional District, noting it is a mix of farmland, large towns, and the Metro East area near St. Louis. “Everything has fallen together that this is the right match for me now.”
Davis’ father is a Baptist minister who is starting a church in Mount Vernon. The younger Davis was born in Crawford County, but spent most of his formative years in Harrisburg, where he says he “got really involved in the community.” He got degrees from Southeastern Illinois College and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale while he continued to be associate pastor, under his father, of First Baptist Church in Harrisburg.
“There’s nothing like … growing up in a small town,” he said.
After college, Davis was a Dunn Fellow in the governor’s legislative office. He ended up moving to the Department of Public Health, and ultimately became a $51,540-a-year aide to Dr. ERIC WHITAKER, the director.
“I do everything from travel to communities on behalf of the director to find out what’s going on (at) the local level … to just being a confidential advisor for the director and handling some administrative matters as well.”
While this would be Davis’s first try at elective office, he said he has worked on campaigns, including that of Blagojevich.
Asked if he liked Blagojevich, Davis said, “I came into the administration on a merit-based fellowship program. The governor’s office, they truly did give me a great opportunity to come over to the Department of Public health.”
Davis says he has formed an exploratory committee, but he isn’t yet talking about its membership or his position on key issues such as abortion and guns.
Like like another Springfield Democrat interested in running against Shimkus – lawyer JOE McMENAMIN – Davis ives in the 18th Congressional District, not the 19th. But he notes that he’s spent much of his life in what is now the 19th and said he would plan to move into the 19th. As to when, he said, he is “still trying to decide that.”
A person needs only be a resident of the state, not the district, to serve in any U.S. House district in Illinois. But non-residency can be a political problem.
As an aside, Davis’ name is mighty similar to that of the Illinois Democrat that represents the 7th Congressional District – DANNY DAVIS. Daniel Davis said he’s not met the congressman, but did see him speak at Democrat Day at the State Fair.
As for Shimkus, Davis said he has been “disappointed by (his) missed opportunities to be a voice and an advocate for this district.”
STEVE TOMASZEWSKI, spokesman for Shimkus, said “The congressman welcomes participation in the democratic process.”
Bernard Schoenburg, political writer for The State Journal-Register, can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or firstname.lastname@example.org.