Capitol Insider ... REVISED WITH CORRECTION
*Budget talks between Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH and the four legislative leaders have gone exactly nowhere for weeks now. So last week the leaders tried a new tactic: Meet together without Blagojevich in the room.
On Thursday and Friday, the state's four top lawmakers got together to see if they could make any progress on fashioning a permanent budget. House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, called Thursday's meeting "productive.'' Senate Minority Leader FRANK WATSON, R-Greenville, said progress was made.
The initial meeting apparently was initiated by Senate President EMIL JONES, D-Chicago, who is Blagojevich's closest ally among the four leaders. Actually, he's Blagojevich's only ally among the leaders. Jones and Madigan were careful to say the governor isn't being cut out of anything. Jones updated the governor after the meeting and the fact remains the governor can still veto a budget he finds unacceptable. True, at this stage a budget needs a super-majority to pass. But if it barely makes that, Blagojevich could possibly peel off enough lawmakers so that his veto would stand. At least in theory he could.
The fact is, something had to give. Blagojevich so poisoned the atmosphere with his crude negotiating tactics - the name calling, the threats, the ad nauseum repetition of his campaign slogans - that it's doubtful the five guys could agree on the time of day while in the same room.
Maybe this will finally be the beginning of the end. We'll see.
*Madigan last week again criticized Blagojevich's leadership style, or what passes for leadership style.
"The governor's style of leadership is designed to tear people apart, not bring them together,'' Madigan said. He then said people need to come together, stop the name-calling and pass a budget.
That's all well and good, but just moments later, Madigan couldn't resist taking his own shot at Blagojevich.
"The governor's working to try and pass his health care plan, which is one of his three failures to date,'' Madigan said. He then noted that the gross receipts tax got zero votes in the House and a plan to sell the lottery got six. The health care plan hasn't even been called for a vote.
OK, Mr. Speaker. It's good to talk about uniting and stopping the name calling and other needling. But it works both ways.
*Blagojevich was talking bold again last week about how he's prepared to keep the General Assembly in session pretty much forever until he gets his way.
First, Blagojevich told a Chicago TV station that he will veto any budget sent to him that contains an income or sales tax increase. And if lawmakers override the veto, Blagojevich said, he will call them into special session until they rescind the vote.
Then he told the Associated Press that he must have his health care plan approved before lawmakers are allowed to finish. True, he can't even get enough Democrats on board to pass it, but that technicality doesn't seem to matter in Blagoland.
Just give it up already. Remember how Blagojevich said he would keep lawmakers in session every single day until a budget was passed? That pledge lasted just over a week before he caved to pressure from Jones to give lawmakers a day off.
Maybe the public sees or reads that stuff about special sessions forever and still takes it seriously. No one inside of the Capitol does anymore.
*A contingent of mostly African-American ministers from Chicago traveled all the way to Springfield Monday to make the case for ending the budget stalemate and giving schools more money.
They tried to meet with Blagojevich, but were turned away at his Capitol office. Blagojevich wasn't there. He was in Chicago.
One of the ministers, ROOSEVELT WATKINS of the Bethlehem Star Church of Chicago, noted that Blagojevich has been an active participant in their church services.
"We've had the governor to our churches on several occasions, singing, what's his favorite song? Precious Lord Take My Hand,'' Watkins said.
To which, another minister added, "He has the verses written down. I don't think he has them memorized yet.''
For some reason, it just isn't that surprising to find out Blagojevich doesn't really know the words to what is supposed to be his favorite hymn.