Doug Finke: Can Quinn get it done by the end of May?

Doug Finke

We should be finding out soon enough which of the Legislative leaders either has a) the greatest pull/force or b) is the most willing to bend to wrap up the spring session.

Gov. Pat Quinn has repeatedly said he wants everything wrapped up by the end of May. Well, it's May, and the clock is ticking fast. To finish in a month will require the cooperation of House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, which is never a sure thing. It also means the cooperation of Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, which may be a little more likely simply because he wants to be seen as a leader who accomplishes things, unlike his predecessor, Emil Jones, who came off more as an obstructionist while trying to defend former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Finishing by the end of May isn't impossible, but it will be difficult. Quinn wants to have his lengthy list of government reforms at least brought to a vote in the General Assembly and preferably passed into law. But there is far from total agreement about which reform proposals to tackle and pretty much total disagreement that all of them will be brought up for a vote, let alone passed. So does Quinn win that one, or do the lawmakers who don't want to carry this reform stuff too far?

You may recall that the state budget has a projected $11 billion hole in it that must be plugged. Quinn laid out his proposed budget that includes some controversial solutions such as raising the state income tax and making state employees pay to help close the gap. There's been plenty of tsk, tsking from lawmakers about the shortcomings of that plan, but nothing very concrete as an alternative. One of the alternatives offered is that the whole $11 billion shortfall doesn't have to be filled all at once, which indicates some people haven't even come to grips with the problem yet.

Then there's the capital program that everyone professes to want, especially Quinn. Assuming the program will issue bonds to pay for projects, House Republicans will have to be on board because it takes a super majority to approve bonds. But Quinn doesn't even invite the GOP leaders to his weekly breakfast gatherings where these issues are discussed. So just how close can a capital plan be?

We'll find out about all of this in about four weeks.

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Illinois Department of Public Health officials held a briefing Friday to bring the media up to date on the swine flu situation, the relatively mild outbreak of an illness that has been blown to hysterical proportions thanks to the combined efforts of the news media and talk radio.

In an effort to quell some of the hysteria, Public Health Director Dr. Damon Arnold offered some sage advice.

"We don't want to react with fear," Arnold said. "Winston Churchill said it: ‘There's nothing to fear but fear itself.' Never truer."

And never more incorrect. The famous line about fearing fear was uttered not by Churchill, but by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his first inauguration speech in 1933. And as long as we are at it, the correct line is "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

For what it's worth, Arnold was put in his job by Blagojevich, another person who liked to drop quotes but who often confused the quote or the speaker.

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“My father told me 'Never take an aspirin until you have headache.’" Quinn explaining that there's no point in fretting over the worst until it happens.

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Rebuffed in his efforts to get on the "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here" reality TV show, Blagojevich got another offer.

The Moonlite BunnyRanch of Nevada offered him an apprenticeship where he would "assist with hiring ladies in addition to facilitating with training and proper disciplinary action" according to a press release.

"Rod's willpower would be challenged daily by the ladies as they bribe him to acquire finer rooms or better working hours and days off," it said, adding that Blago would earn a "handsome amount of money" in the job.

In case you haven't figured it out by now, the BunnyRanch is a bordello. It does not appear our ex-governor will be accepting the position.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.