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  1. #1
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    Jun 2005

    Default IL - Blagojevich threatening to lay off 90% of state police

    Blagojevich threatening to lay off 90% of state police force
    By Mike Riopell and Kurt Erickson,

    SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Rod Blagojevich is threatening to lay off 1,800 of the state’s roughly 2,000 Illinois State Police troopers in January unless lawmakers approve key budget legislation soon.

    “We simply can’t pay some of our bills,” Blagojevich spokesman Justin DeJong said Thursday.

    The administration, which has been battling with lawmakers over the state budget for 10 months, didn’t deny that the move could have a devastating effect on the state’s crime fighting force.

    “There’s no question the impact would be great,” DeJong said.

    The threat, however, was viewed as a yet another pressuring tactic by Blagojevich in a year filled with discord between himself and his political nemesis, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

    The second-term governor wants Madigan to call for a vote on a budget measure that would assure the state can pay troopers, as well as distribute added money for public schools and other state services.

    Although lawmakers have approved a budget, separate legislation that gives the administration the authority to funnel it to specific programs has been held up as a bargaining chip over other issues, including a massive expansion of gambling that would pay for a $13 billion statewide construction spending program.

    The infighting among Democrats who control state government didn’t let up Thursday.

    In separate action, the Democrat-controlled Senate voted to restore less than $8 million of the more than $460 million in cuts Blagojevich made to the budget in August.

    The move restores money for legislative agencies, courts and the auditor general, but not for scores of local projects and programs that were earlier restored in the House.

    The action brought catcalls from Republicans, who were powerless to stop the move.

    “What is happening is just wrong,” said state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville.

    State Rep. Gary Hannig, a Litchfield Democrat and Madigan’s chief budget negotiator, said he understands the need for the budget legislation. But he described talk of laying off state troopers as “scare tactics.”

    “It doesn’t get too many people excited to say that maybe we’ll have to park a police car or two starting in January,” Hannig said. “So you want to come out with the most horrific, worst-case scenario that you can possibly come up with.”

    The idea of mass layoffs also appeared to take Senate budget negotiator Donne Trotter by surprise.

    “I haven’t heard that,” said Trotter, a Democratic senator from Chicago.

    Trotter also suggested the governor’s threat could be a scheme to prod the General Assembly into action.

    “There are always those pressures that individuals put forth,” Trotter said.

    While Blagojevich was talking about cutting 90 percent of the state police force, Republicans on Thursday attempted to convince Madigan that a similar meltdown awaits school districts if the budget implementation legislation isn’t acted upon.

    “School districts have planned for this money,” said state Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville.

    “Why would we starve our school districts over this silly political fight?” added state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet.

    The GOP effort, however, fell short, leaving millions in added funding for districts in the same political limbo as money for the state police.

    “Now is the time to stop the political games,” said state Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro.
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  2. #2
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    Join Date
    Jun 2005


    Lawmakers skeptical of state police layoffs

    By Mike Riopell, the southern springfield bureau

    SPRINGFIELD - An Illinois State Police spokesman said Friday that if Gov. Rod Blagojevich's warnings to lay off 90 percent of the troopers come true, the police wouldn't be able to carry out their "core missions."

    That would mean few, if any, troopers patrolling the interstates and a dearth in crime investigations by the force, said state police spokesman Scott Compton.

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    "Obviously, we're hopeful that it won't come to that," he said.

    Blagojevich aides said Thursday that if the Illinois House doesn't approve particular budget legislation, 1,800 of the state's roughly 2,000 troopers could be laid off in January.

    "How the hell could he do that?" said state Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan. "I think it's a scare tactic."

    "Once again, the governor is always throwing out threats," said state Sen. John Jones, R-Mount Vernon.

    Most lawmakers Friday agreed it was important to approve the funding legislation, which also would send an influx of money to schools. But many said Blagojevich's scenario was being used as political pressure and unlikely to realistically happen.

    State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said he'd have to study the issue more, but he wasn't sure it was that dire.

    "When you look at the many other things that could be streamlined or downsized in state government, vital services such as the state police would not be the first place I would be looking," he said.

    State Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion, said he wasn't surprised by the threat because Blagojevich already has cut funding for the CeaseFire anti-violence program in Decatur.

    "I don't know how he and (Senate) President Jones could live with that situation," Flider said. "Nobody wants to see troopers laid off."

    State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, accused Blagojevich of being over-dramatic, comparing the layoff news to the governor's statements that raising the speed limit for trucks would lead to hundreds of deaths.

    "And then yesterday he said that if we don't pass a bill, he's going to have to get rid of the state police," Jacobs said.

    House leaders have said the Senate has to comply with a full state budget agreement before they can approve the legislation that would pay troopers and send more money to schools.

    They declined to do so again Friday before leaving Springfield, continuing the year-long fighting among top Democrats that has left lawmakers' with lots of unfinished business.

    "The longer we're here, the more complicated things get," said state Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Clare.
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