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We are days away from a critical deadline -- we must
pass a new state budget in the next week or a disastrous government
shutdown could occur. If that happens, the responsibility will lie
with Democrats: Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Senate President Emil Jones
and House Speaker Michael Madigan. Unfortunately, if a shutdown does
occur, the heaviest burden will not be placed upon the shoulders of
any politician, but upon the shoulders of the millions of
hardworking Illinois taxpayers.
If no new state budget is in place by the second week in August,
schools may not open on time, because their state aid payments could
be delayed. Thousands of state employees, including teachers,
correctional officers and state troopers, may not get their
paychecks, and Medicaid providers who care for the sick and elderly
won't get paid. State offices offering vital services, like driver's
license facilities, may have to close their doors.
As the chief budget negotiator for the House Republicans for many
years, I never before have seen such a complete failure of
leadership by the Democrats, who control both chambers of the
General Assembly and the executive mansion. They have had since
January to get to work on a budget, but rather than work on a
budget, they were engaged in party infighting. Our first real budget
meeting didn't occur until June, when we were already into overtime
[to top of second column in this letter]
We have now been in overtime for two full months, the longest
overtime session in Illinois history. To date, this overtime session
has cost Illinois taxpayers more than $600,000, with nothing to show
for it. The governor is no more willing to work with us today than
he was in May and June. He continues to demand nothing less than
passage of his massive universal health care program, with no regard
for the state's other needs.
The governor also refuses to acknowledge the economic realities
facing our state. We simply cannot afford to fund a massive
state-run health care program with existing revenues, and his
funding proposals, including the gross receipts tax and his scheme
to lease the lottery, are dead.
There has been a glimmer of hope this week, as Speaker Madigan
and Senate President Jones have agreed to work with Republican
leaders Tom Cross and Frank Watson to craft a 12-month budget
without the governor's input. We are all due back in the Capitol on
Monday. If we can pass a budget through the General Assembly by the
end of next week, and the governor promptly signs it, a shutdown can
July 31, 2007]
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