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Wednesday, July 30, 2008 03:41 pm

Three-headed monster

The state’s most vulnerable citizens suffer as the state’s leaders feud

Women and children are literally being thrown into the street while the three-headed monster that runs Illinois government continues to do battle with itself.

More than 1,000 protesters gathered at Chicago's Thompson Center last week to demand an end to the ugly political war that has engulfed Springfield. The protesters sought the restoration of millions of dollars vetoed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich from alcohol and substance-abuse recovery services. The programs keep drug and alcohol users out of jail by giving them an opportunity to clean up and get their lives back in order.

The governor vetoed the money — and a whole lot more — after the House and Senate failed to pass a balanced budget [see Dusty Rhodes, "First domino to fall," July 17]. Actually the House did pass a balanced budget, but it's still sitting in the Senate. The proposal that made it to the governor's desk was favored by the Senate Democrats but required additional revenues, which the House didn't approve during the spring session.

The House came back to Springfield to override some of the governor's vetoes, including the alcohol and substance-abuse program cuts. But the House Democrats, who run the chamber, never took up any funding proposals, claiming that the House Republicans had refused to negotiate with them at the request of the Democratic governor. The Senate refused to come back to town as long as the House failed to pass revenue bills, and then the never-ending finger-pointing ritual, which passes for leadership here, was in full swing.

The governor blamed the House, the Senate blamed the House, the House blamed everybody but itself, the Republicans blamed the Democrats, and the Democrats blamed the Republicans.

Meanwhile, a facility for homeless families that houses 80 women and 40 children in the south suburbs, relying solely on state funding through the alcohol and drug program, was preparing last week to close its doors and evict its residents.

"It's like our lives [aren't] important," says Demetria Woods, who works for the suburban facility that was preparing to close last week.

Back to the blame game.

The governor's people had predicted that the House would bear the brunt of the blame in this budget fight, but that hasn't happened so far. He made the vetoes, the House overrode some of them, and the Senate won't return. Politically, the governor and the Senate are taking most of the heat at the moment. And the more the governor cuts (he has said that much more is on the way as he manages his way through hundreds of millions in additional red ink), the more blame he will get.

But this is no longer a merely political story. We're talking about real people with real problems, blithely tossed to the four winds while the "leaders" seek to use the crisis to their own advantage. Blagojevich and Jones want to destroy Madigan, and Madigan is trying to do the same to them.

Illinois was always known as a rough-and-tumble state that still got the job done, but no longer. The rough-and-tumble has increased exponentially to the point where "the job" is now a distant second to "the fight."

Blagojevich, Jones, and Madigan are fighting with one another without taking even the slightest notice of the devastation they are causing to the people and infrastructure below. It may be thrilling to watch, unless, of course, you are those Thompson Center protesters or Demetria Woods, and then your cries of anguish go unheard.

Apparently the rest of us are doomed to let this three-headed monster fight itself until a "win" is declared. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot we can do about it until the war is over, whenever that may be.

I've never been so disheartened by this state's government as I am right now.

Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily
political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.

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