Blagojevich: Budget plan fails due to huge deficit

By Daily Illini Staff Report

After reviewing the budget passed by the General Assembly before Saturday’s deadline, Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Monday his budget experts had determined their completed plan is unconstitutional, thanks to a $2.1 billion deficit.

The legislature must pass a “balanced budget,” according to the Illinois State Constitution.

“Unfortunately, because the House did not pass new revenue as the Senate did, I have a budget on my desk that jeopardizes the State’s ability to meet its core responsibilities like providing health care, educating our youth and protecting the public,” Blagojevich said in a press release.

House Speaker Michael Madigan told The Associated Press it’s the governor’s job to figure out how much the state can afford to spend Sunday.

“That’s a decision for the governor to make,” he said. “The legislature is not involved in spending decisions.”

State Sen. Mike Frerichs (D – Champaign) said the governor has the power to balance the budget himself by vetoing the specific expenses he deems unnecessary and doubts the size of the deficit is as large as Blagojevich claimed Monday morning.

“According to our budget staff, it is not that large,” Frerichs said.

A capital plan approved by the Senate failed to pass through the Illinois House, at the hands of “House Democratic leadership … procedural maneuvers,” according to the governor.

“Something different will have to be negotiated, that bill is dead,” Frerichs said. “You can reintroduce it, but my guess is it will take a little while.”

University spokesman Tom Hardy said the failure was disappointing for the University of Illinois system. The Champaign campus would have received $55 million for the renovation of Lincoln Hall and more than $400 million more for other projects including construction of a petascale computing facility.

“We can continue to a certain extent for some (projects), but what we really need is the capital plan from the state to take care of higher education needs as well as all of the other capital needs,” Hardy said. “We can’t just continue to mandate the situation to do the best that we can. We desperately need state support for a capital plan.”

Blagojevich said he will call the four legislative leaders together this week to work to fulfill the constitutional requirements and state needs by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

The governor said if leaders can resolve the issues, legislators would only have to reconvene for a day or two to agree on a more feasible budget and capital plan.

Staff writers Eric Heisig and Meghan Montemurro and The Associated Press contributed to this report