State budget crisis affects area

Lisa Depies

The start of the new fiscal year, July 1, arrived in Illinois without the state having a new budget in place to cover spending for the next year.

The $59 billion-plus budget sent to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich includes an estimated $2.1 billion shortfall.

Blagojevich set a July 9 budget for lawmakers to send him a more balanced budget, but House Speaker Michael Madigan has said it’s up to the governor to make cuts in the budget.

It’s a stalemate that soon will affect citizens across the state. If a budget isn’t in place by July 10, approximately 4,900 state employees won’t receive a paycheck.

The lack of an operating budget also will prevent funds from being distributed to hospitals, nursing homes and school districts.

“Right now, there’s a game of chicken being played to see who blinks first,” said first-year State Sen. Tim Bivins (R-45), whose district includes Geneseo.

“(Madigan) has said if the House is called back, they’ll start impeachment processes (against the governor),” said Bivins. In response, Blagojevich has threatened deep cuts in funding to, among others, services for the disabled, the mentally ill, seniors and veterans.

“It’s part of the game,” said Bivins of the governor’s budget threats. “He’s going for where it will hurt the most and for the groups that will scream loudly.”