State Capitol Notebook: Gov. drops budget axe while attention is elsewhere
Play of the Week
Gov. Rod Blagojevich dropped the long-awaited the state budget axe last week while all the political attention was on the anointing of Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois favorite son Barack Obama.
Hundreds of layoffs are coming at four state agencies. Eleven state parks and a dozen state historic sites are shutting down this fall.
Blagojevich’s administration blamed the fallout on $1.4 billion in cuts he had to make last month to fill a huge state budget hole.
Lawmakers call the cuts unnecessarily early and deep, saying the governor could have waited longer into the budget year to see if more could be done to stop the slashing. The main state employees’ union is urging lawmakers to come back to work soon to spare the cuts.
A Blagojevich spokesman said Thursday he’s not aware of any special session plans.
Legislators might not come back until November – after many of the cuts have already kicked in.
Are more agency cuts on the way? The union said it doesn’t know, and Blagojevich’s administration isn’t saying.
Senate President Emil Jones was in the headlines early last week doing his best to muddy the Democratic message of love and hope from the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
A black supporter of Hillary Clinton accused Jones, a black supporter of Obama, of calling her an “Uncle Tom” when they ran into each other at a hotel lobby.
Jones insisted he called her a “Doubting Thomas” for not buying into the Obama campaign after the Illinois senator beat out Clinton for the Democratic nomination, but she misheard him.
Jones apologized the next day for the flap, and other Democrats tried to minimize the incident.
But not everyone was pacified.
“I think Barack Obama would be wise to keep him locked up in the basement until the election is over,” quipped Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago.
The allegation even prompted the head of Illinois NOW to call for Jones to resign.
The kicker? A week earlier, Jones announced he’s retiring in January and wants to hand his seat over to his son, Emil III. The elder Jones said he wouldn’t be stepping down because of the controversy.
Quote of Note
“I like my job and there is no reason to think I don't want to keep doing this job,” Blagojevich speaking to reporters in Denver last week on the possibility of seeking a third term.
Number to Know
1 – Number of public hugs between House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Blagojevich this year, after the two enemies embraced during an unexpected lovefest at the Denver convention.
Republicans from Illinois and around the country converge on Minnesota this week to officially make Arizona Sen. John McCain their presidential nominee at the GOP national convention.
--State Capitol Bureau