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Illinois GOP legislators ask: Who needs a lieutenant governor?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 9, 2009 - While Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder seeks to protect his favorite event -- the Tour of Missouri bicycle race -- his counterpart in Illinois has a more serious problem:

The Illinois lieutenant governor doesn't exist.

And some Illinois state legislators would like to keep it that way.

The post of Illinois lieutenant governor has been vacant since then-Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn moved up to become governor following the January resignation of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Both are Democrats.

Now, several Republican members of the House -- including assistant GOP leader Ron Stephens of Highland -- are proposing to eliminate Illinois' lieutenant governor's office altogether. They presented their ideas to Quinn on Thursday.

The Illinois lieutenant governor's office has an annual budget of about $2 million. In a statement, the legislators seeking the cut said they " believe the office should be eliminated, especially when the state is facing a massive budget deficit."

Stephens' staff declined to return calls seeking comment. But in a statement, Stephens said that eliminating the lieutenant governor's office was among several proposals that represented "a much better way to trim from state government than by laying off front-line employees in various state agencies."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.