Blagojevich in no hurry to sign state budget
Springfield, Ill. – Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is offering no hints as to whether he'll sign the state's budget that was passed last week. The spending plan officially arrived at his office Monday, 13 days after the state's old budget expired.
The state comptroller and several lawmakers urged him to act soon, saying any delay hurts schools that are waiting for financial aid and private companies waiting to be paid for doing business with the state.
"We're already way past when we needed to have a budget," said Rep. Gary Hannig, D-Litchfield. "The clock is ticking, and it's not really fair to the school districts and vendors."
Spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said there was "not a lot I can say right now" about the Democratic governor's plans. She agreed the budget should be resolved as soon as possible but said Blagojevich and his staff need time to review the 1,400-page spending plan.
Lawmakers approved the $59 billion budget on Friday, but they didn't formally send it to the governor until Monday.
Even before lawmakers voted, Blagojevich was criticizing their budget as technically flawed, loaded with pork and silent on the issues of road improvements and health care.
Rausch said Blagojevich still objects to the plan.
"The way it's written now, we can't work with it," she said. "We're researching our options."
The governor signed a different budget measure, a supplemental appropriation with money for families of slain soldiers, hospitals that treat the poor and raises for state officials.
Lawmakers approved the bill two months ago and Blagojevich signed it late Monday night without any public comment.
Blagojevich could have used his amendatory veto power to remove legislative pay raises as a way to punish lawmakers who have rejected his budget proposals. But that might have angered his remaining allies in the General Assembly.
Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, urged Blagojevich to let the raises take effect. He also said there's no hurry to act on a new state budget because a court order ensures that state employees will continue to be paid this month.
"I don't know what all the hoopla is about," Jones said.
But Comptroller Dan Hynes' office called it "critical" for the governor to act quickly.
Tens of millions of dollars in bills go unpaid every day because the state has no budget, said spokeswoman Carol Knowles. Schools have missed $170 million in aid payments already and will miss another $170 million on Aug. 20. Paychecks will continue going out only through the end of August.
"He needs to act on the budget now, today, without delay," Knowles said.