It seems like old times again

Democratic budget irks Republicans

For a while last week, it seemed like old times.

When lawmakers took up the new state budget, Republicans complained they were cut out of the final talks to draft it and voted against the spending plan.

At times, this led to some strained arguments for opposing the budget.

Take K-12 education. Compared to what’s happened in recent years, it came out pretty well. General state aid even got a $155 million increase rather than another cut.

But some Senate Republicans complained it was unacceptable and should have been increased even more. Frustrated by the debate, Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, finally rose to defend the budget and asked where the Republican plan for education might be found.

Actually, the plan might be found in something called “Reality Check.” That was the report Senate Republicans compiled in 2011 that was a proposal for dealing with the state’s financial problems. It had a lengthy list of ideas, including what to do with K-12 education. Among other things, it recommended a cut in K-12 education and said the options for achieving that included freezing general state aid at the previous year’s level.

Guess things have improved a lot since then.

Frosty debate

Illinois lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Pat Quinn last week that bans the use of handheld cellphones while driving.

A recurring complaint from opponents to the bill was that it singles out just one aspect of distracted driving. People do all sorts of distracting things behind the wheel, yet those aren’t being made illegal, they argued.

Most lawmakers understand that a good way to make an effective point is to speak from personal experience. Enter Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, an opponent of the cellphone ban bill.

Franks recounted how he was recently leaving Springfield on a Friday and stopped by a Wendy’s on the way out of town. He bought a Frosty, the frozen dairy concoction sold at the restaurants.

Franks noted that a Frosty is eaten with a spoon. So with a Frosty in one hand and a Frosty spoon in the other, Franks headed out on the road for home.

“At no time did I have two hands on the wheel,” Franks said. “If anyone deserved a ticket that day, I’m sure I did.”

So give Franks credit for candor.

But if you spot his car coming out of a Wendy’s, you might want to give him a wide berth.

Quotable quotes

“There’s a lot of constitutional scholars all of a sudden in the General Assembly.”

– State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, on the proliferation of legal opinions on what pension reform plan is or isn’t constitutional, often offered by people with no legal training.

•  •  •

“Sometimes you have to step up and do things. Every time we’re here, it’s no, no, no, no. I don’t vote for the spending, I don’t vote for the funding, but I really care.”

– Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, frustrated with the opposition to the education budget.

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