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03/19/2009

Speechless

  Okay, so I'm the new guy.  I admit there's a lot more I'll need to learn about the protocols of political Springfield.  But will somebody please explain to me how the most enduring and powerful government leader at the Illinois capitol, a guy they call the "Speaker", gets away with saying virtually nothing after the Governor described a deficit-ridden state "facing its greatest crisis in modern times".

  Following Governor Pat Quinn's budget address, Senate President John Cullerton held a candid, half hour session with reporters in his office.  Cullerton conceded the likelihood of some kind of income tax increase but said his chamber would conduct a thorough review of the Governor's proposal and the actual need for it before signing off on a 50% increase and the proposed exemption amounts in the plan.  He also said a hike in the motor fuels tax, which Quinn opposes, is still on the table as far as his members are concerned.

  But House Speaker Michael Madigan's only post-speech media availability was during a live interview on barely-watched Illinois Public Television, answering soft ball questions lobbed by an okey-doke interviewer who actually told me ahead of time there were certain things he just wouldn't bring up during his scheduled eight minutes. (more on that later)  Madigan answered no questions from dozens of other reporters who had traveled to Springfield from around the state to cover the historic speech.

   Among the top three leaders, the 66 year old Speaker and chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party would be expected to have the most profound input concerning how the state resolves its $11.6 billion budget deficit.  Madigan was first elected to the House in 1970 and has served as Speaker during all but one session (1994-96) since 1983.  He was actually in charge of the House the last time the Illinois income tax was increased in 1989.    Quinn, who was elevated to Governor only seven weeks ago and Cullerton, who was elected Senate President late last year are virtual infants dealing with such situations when compared to Madigan.

  So why does he try so hard to blow off the media.  In all the conversations I've had about the Speaker with my colleagues and various state lawmakers, there is not a whisper or the even the slightest hint that this most powerful of Illinois pols is trying to hide anything shady or corrupt.  In that category, he has been beyond reproach.  So is he trying to avoid questions about his daughter, Attorney General Lisa, and her reported gubernatorial aspirations?  How will he balance his consideration of the Governor's budget when whatever is decided could have a major impact on the 2010 democratic primary,  a contest that could involve Lisa and Quinn?   That's a valid question and one that I tried to get the softballer to ask in the IPTV interview. 

  On the Speaker's web page he writes:

"As Speaker, I want every citizen of Illinois to know this is a people's Legislature -- we are here to serve the public, openly, honestly and with the highest standards. I am accountable only to you."

When I read that quote after being blown off by Madigan on such an important day in Springfield, this reporter is left...

...speechless.

Comments

How is it that R.Blagoyovich(sp)is somehow entitled to prime time exposure to criticize Gov. Quinn? I don't agree with the Gov.'s tax plans but I'm really annoyed with ABC7 for giving that Blago air time. Shame on you! What he deserves is certainly NOT more ego strokes.

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