While a state government shutdown is undesirable, it might be the “slap on the side of the head” needed to work out a new budget, House Republican Leader Tom Cross said Wednesday.

While a state government shutdown is undesirable, it might be the “slap on the side of the head” needed to work out a new budget, House Republican Leader Tom Cross said Wednesday.


 


The state’s fiscal year began July 1, but lawmakers and Gov. Rod Blagojevich have failed so far to negotiate a new spending plan.


 


A temporary, one-month budget was enacted to cover July and head off a government shutdown. Whether legislators would be willing to approve another temporary budget for August is uncertain.


 


“No one wants a shutdown. That’s not good, though that may be the slap on the side of the head that gets people ... to get this done,” Cross said. “I don’t think anybody wants it, but we’re getting closer by the day.”


 


Cross made the comments when he emerged from a closed-door budget meeting also attended by Blagojevich, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President Emil Jones and Senate GOP Leader Frank Watson.


 


“We’re just going in circles. We’re not having a discussion about the reality,” Cross said of the budget talks. “Somewhere, someday we’ve got to accept the reality we’ve only got a limited amount of revenue.”


 


Madigan, meanwhile, told Chicago radio station WVON that he backs an increase in the state income tax to boost state revenues. He made similar remarks after Wednesday’s budget meeting.


 


“Our caucus would view the income tax as a fair tax because if you make money, you pay the tax. If you don’t make money, you do not pay the tax,” Madigan said.


Before an income tax increase plan could pass in the House, he added, the governor would have to back off his oft-repeated pledge to veto such an increase.


 


“And I know the governor is a good student of history. If you read American history, you’ll find numerous instances where people change positions,” Madigan said. “He ought to take a good hard look at that.”


 


Jones said if the House were to pass an income tax increase, the Senate “would give it strong consideration.”


 


Jones added that he would “continue to press for something close to” a $1.5 billion increase for education funding.


 


Also Wednesday, a coalition of health-care advocates released a poll they said showed that voters rank health-care costs as their top economic issue, above rising gas prices and higher taxes.


 


The survey, conducted by Lake Research Partners, showed that 85 percent of Illinois voters want health-care reform, its supporters said. They said 79 percent say it will affect how they vote in the next election.


Blagojevich has made universal health-care coverage his top priority for the current legislative session, but disagreement between the governor and lawmakers over how it would be funded has played a large part in throwing the session into overtime.


The survey was conducted on behalf of AARP, America’s Agenda, the AFL-CIO and the Campaign for Better Health Care.


 


Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com. Dana Heupel can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or dana.heupel@sj-r.com.