SPRINGFIELD - Senate Democrats all but demanded Wednesday that taxpayers fork over more money to boost state spending on education, health care and other state programs.
But rather than propose its own spending plan, the Democrat-controlled Senate merely approved a nonbinding resolution rejecting a leaner budget plan backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The contentious move was described as a way to send Madigan a message that Democrats stand for bigger government.
Madigan called it a "curious" development and suggested it was a move of desperation by Senate President Emil Jones as the clock winds down on the fiscal year.
"It appears to me that certain people are grasping at straws in terms of what they perceive to be a budget debate," Madigan said.
Republicans said it was an act of futility that will further delay budget talks that are now three weeks into overtime.
"This resolution does nothing to help stop the impending government shutdown and does nothing to further the cause of the residents of Illinois," said state Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa.
The sparring and message-sending marked the latest tit-for-tat between Jones, Madigan and Gov. Rod Blagojevich, all Chicago Democrats who thus far have failed to hammer out a spending plan despite controlling state government.
More than bare-bones budget
Jones' maneuver has no official impact, but it does make it clear that he and members of his majority in the Senate want more than the bare-bones spending plan favored by the House.
"We are not playing games," Jones said.
That's not how GOP lawmakers saw the debate.
"Right now, what we're doing is just playing a game," said state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville.
State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, blamed the deadlock on the egos of Jones and Madigan.
"This was a charade," Brady said.
"It's all about more and more and more money," added Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville.
Legislative leaders met again Wednesday afternoon, but reported no progress on arriving at a budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
"It's getting to the point to be it's rather embarrassing and a bit disgusting," said House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego. "It's crazy. We are literally spinning ourselves around in a circle with no progress."
With the closed-door meetings going nowhere as the fiscal year comes to a close, aides for Blagojevich and Jones are beginning craft an emergency budget that could be put in place to avert a government shutdown.
While that plan would keep government operating for an extra month, Madigan said he'd prefer to vote on a full-year budget.
Comptroller Dan Hynes, also a Chicago Democrat, is predicting that the state will begin a fiscal meltdown on July 9 if no budget is put in place.