Gov. Rod Blagojevich warned legislative leaders Wednesday that if they pass a budget that’s unacceptable to him, it will precipitate a government shutdown.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich warned legislative leaders Wednesday that if they pass a budget that’s unacceptable to him, it will precipitate a government shutdown.


 


A day after moving to avoid a shutdown by asking state employees to stay on the job — despite the expiration of a one-month budget that funded government through July — Blagojevich said he won’t sign a 12-month spending plan that doesn’t address his priorities for education and health-care spending, pension funding and a capital program.


 


“A last-minute budget sent to my desk that fails on these criteria will be dead on arrival,” Blagojevich said in a letter to the four leaders. “A ‘take it or leave it’ approach on a 12-month budget, sent to me as a government shutdown looms, will do nothing more than simply precipitate such a shutdown.”


 


Earlier, Blagojevich said it is “cynical to use state employees and vendors and recipients of state services as pawns in a budget dispute and use them as leverage to force a bad budget…”


Blagojevich also said he will never sign a budget that only appears to be balanced on paper.


That brought a stern rebuke from Comptroller Dan Hynes, a fellow Democrat.


 


“It is astonishing that after signing four budgets billions of dollars out of balance, the governor is now finding a moral objection to a potentially out-of-balance budget while threatening to shut down state government in the process,” Hynes said in a written statement. “The governor’s hypocrisy knows no bounds.”


 


Blagojevich has 60 days to sign legislation, including the budget, after it arrives at his desk. Hynes’ office said that until the governor acts on whatever budget legislation is sent to him, it doesn’t have the authority to pay the state’s bills.


 


Blagojevich issued his letter amid mounting evidence that Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, without the governor’s input, wants to pass a 12-month budget for the state in the next few days. The House Wednesday positioned bills that can be amended with budget details later this week.


 


“In a best-case scenario, we’ll have an agreement by Friday,” said Rep. Gary Hannig of Litchfield, a top budget negotiator for the House Democrats. “I think that the four leaders would say that they’ve made some progress. They’re not there yet, but they feel confident enough they’ve asked us to (position bills) and begin the process of beginning to try to pull this final thing together.”


 


House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, would not describe details of a plan outside of saying it will be “fairly limited” in growth.


 


Other Republican sources said that, as of Wednesday, the plan would not rely on raising cigarette taxes or expanding gambling, that it would contain no capital program and that education funding would increase by $650 million. That represents the midway point between the $400 million suggested by Madigan earlier this year and a $900 million increase sought by Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago.


 


Jones spokeswoman Cindy Davidsmeyer said only, “We’re hopefully going to pass a budget.  We’re just putting things in position.”


 


None of the suggested education increases comes close to the $1.5 billion sought by Blagojevich. There’s also no mention of the governor’s plan for universal health-care coverage that has all but disappeared from budget discussions held by the four leaders without Blagojevich in attendance. If the plan comes up for a vote at all, it is expected it will be handled separately.


 


Earlier in the day, Blagojevich repeated his demand that lawmakers must approve his health-care plan and a capital-spending program.


 


“I’ve said before I’m determined to stay here as long at it takes to get that,” he said. “If we have to be here for 12 months to get it right for people, what’s wrong with that? That’s what people hired us to do.”


 


Blagojevich continued to press Wednesday for approval of another one-month budget to keep the state operating normally through August. The state’s fiscal year started July 1, and operations continued then only because legislators approved a temporary budget.


 


None of the four legislative leaders wants to approve another stop-gap budget, which they feel will only prolong the impasse.


 


Despite having no budget, Hynes said this week the state can operate normally until Aug. 8, which is a deadline for processing $170 million in school-aid payments and payroll for about 4,900 state workers. Blagojevich — who like Illinois’ other statewide elected officials is paid at the end of each month, according to Hynes’ office — asked employees to continue working Wednesday, even though the state has no budget that will guarantee when they will be paid.


 


“It seemed like a normal workday in state agencies,” said Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch. “We appreciate that state workers answered the call.”


 


Adriana Colindres of GateHouse News Service's State Capitol Bureau contributed to this report. Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.