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Illinois government shutdown looms

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By AP/KWMU/IL Public Radio

Springfield, Ill. – Illinois lawmakers head back to Springfield today (Monday) ahead of tomorrow's deadline that could end in a state government shutdown. A temporary state budget runs out Tuesday and there's been no permanent budget for the fiscal year passed.

Governor Rod Blagojevich called lawmakers into special session on Saturday to deal with the budget, but they mostly ignored that call. He then called them into special session today, but they were already scheduled to be in Springfield.

There seems to be consensus legislative leaders are making progress toward a new spending plan.

The recent meetings have been without the governor, who has been excluded, as the House and Senate leaders discuss priorities.

Blagojevich has demanded universal health care be part of a final budget, but he still lacks the votes to get it approved. Instead, the leaders appear to be moving on and talking about other needs like education, construction projects and paying the state's bills.

Blagojevich wants another temporary budget to avoid a government shutdown that could otherwise occur in early August. But Frank Watson, the top-ranking Republican in the state Senate, says his members would prefer a final solution rather than extending the session even longer.

Nearly two-thirds of Illinois legislators skipped a special session ordered by Gov. Rod Blagojevich this weekend, leading one lawmaker to note "signs of irrelevance" surrounding the governor.

Blagojevich responded by criticizing the General Assembly and ordering another special session for Monday when lawmakers are already scheduled to meet.

About one-quarter of state senators showed up for Saturday's session. Less than half of House members made an appearance. Neither chamber devoted even a second of discussion to a temporary budget.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said he wouldn't call the response disrespectful to Blagojevich. "I think it indicates that there's a majority of the House that simply is not responsive to the governor's desires," he said.

Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said the indifference to Blagojevich's special session and his exclusion from budget talks demonstrate his shrinking role in Springfield.

"There are signs of irrelevance," Brady said.

Blagojevich issued a statement saying he was disappointed. "If the General Assembly does not finish its work soon, the people of Illinois will pay the price of their inaction," he said.

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