Blagojevich's budget cuts target mostly his critics
Springfield, Ill. – Some of his harshest critics were hit hardest by spending cuts when Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed part of the state budget Thursday.
Blagojevich cut the budgets of Comptroller Dan Hynes and Attorney General Lisa Madigan. He also slashed spending at the Illinois Arts Council, which is chaired by the wife of House Speaker Michael Madigan.
All the officials are Democrats, but Hynes has bickered with the governor over his handling of the state budget and Speaker Madigan is Blagojevich's chief opponent in the Legislature. The attorney general has criticized Blagojevich for not signing an electric rate relief agreement into law and a variety of other legal issues.
The Democratic governor spared his own office from the cuts, as well as the offices of Secretary of State Jesse White and Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. His closest legislative ally, Senate President Emil Jones, had his budget priorities spared, too.
Blagojevich slashed $463 million out of the spending plan that lawmakers had approved. The rest of the roughly $60 billion budget goes into effect immediately, but lawmakers will have to override his vetoes if they want the cuts restored.
Justin DeJong, Blagojevich's budget office spokesman, denied that political retribution had anything to do with the cuts.
He said all constitutional officers were reduced to last year's levels. Since Hynes and Lisa Madigan got increases under the Legislature's version of the budget, they were the ones to suffer cuts, DeJong said.
But he could not explain why the secretary of state's office, which also got an increase under the legislative budget, was not cut, too. Nor did he address the cuts to the Arts Council.
Hynes spokeswoman Carol Knowles said the office had not reviewed the cuts Thursday afternoon and had no comment.
Blagojevich made a series of 2.9% cuts in various sections of Hynes' budget, for a total reduction of $750,000.
Lisa Madigan's cuts averaged 7.6%, with a mix of small and large ones totaling more than $4 million.
Auditor General William Holland, whose office has conducted several stinging audits of the Blagojevich administration in recent years, received significant cuts throughout his budget.
The governor's cuts to the Illinois Arts Council, which is chaired by Shirley Madigan, included cutting from $8 million to $4.7 million grants to arts organizations.
Also cut was a $125,000 grant to the United Business Association of Midway, an advocacy group pushing commerce around Chicago's Midway Airport. Speaker Madigan has been a member of the group and advocate for its state funding in recent years.
Meanwhile, the governor made only small cuts, in line with those at other universities, to Chicago State University, a favorite of Jones.