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Democrats show off disunity at Illinois State Fair

By Sean Crawford, IL Public Radio / AP


Springfield, Ill. – On a day usually devoted to party unity "Governor's Day" at the State Fair the state comptroller, treasurer and lieutenant governor all condemned the Democratic bickering that has left Illinois without a budget for two weeks.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan scolded Gov. Rod Blagojevich for not helping people struggling to pay electricity bills. Her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, accused the governor of unconstitutional actions, and was in turn accused of betraying fellow Democrats.

"It's embarrassing. It's not the way people envision their leaders acting," Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said after a Democratic rally at the State Fair. "I think the public is getting sick and tired of this."

But Blagojevich said he doesn't owe the public an apology as he pushes to expand government health programs.

"I would apologize if I wasn't prepared to fight for them. I would apologize if the going got tough and all of a sudden we cut and ran," he said.

His latest tactic is a threat to increase health spending by $500 million without legislative permission. Lawmakers sent him a budget without the new health programs he wants, but Blagojevich says he can spend the money anyway.

Blagojevich also says he will use his veto powers to cut $500 million in wasteful spending from the budget. But he would not give a single example of what he hopes to cut, and he would not rule out sparing projects supported by Senate President Emil Jones, an ally, while slashing all other legislative projects.

Democrats control the governor's mansion, every statewide office and both chambers of the General Assembly, but they've been unable to agree on how to increase state revenues or how to use the money.

As a result, there was no new budget to replace the old one when it expired July 31. A court order is keeping government paychecks flowing this month, but the impasse is blocking payments to schools, Medicaid providers and companies doing business with the state.

Attendance at the State Fair's "Governor's Day" traditionally when the party in power celebrates and whips up enthusiasm for the next election was sparse Wednesday, and there signs of disarray.

Comptroller Daniel Hynes didn't even show up.

Attorney General Madigan also skipped the State Fair rally. At the earlier Democratic breakfast, she scolded Blagojevich for not signing legislation offering consumers relief from electricity rates that soared in January.

Speaker Michael Madigan did attend the governor's rally, although the speaker has been a leading opponent of Blagojevich's budget proposals.