Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Friday he will haul lawmakers back to Springfield after the Fourth of July, and keep them in the capital city seven days a week thereafter until a budget is passed.
Blagojevich said he, too, would be in Springfield each day working on the budget. However, he dodged questions about whether he would continue his practice of flying back to Chicago nightly on a state airplane when budget discussions are concluded.
In announcing his plans to call daily special sessions starting Thursday, Blagojevich further alienated some of the legislative leaders, who thought they had an agreement with the governor to give the General Assembly next week off.
Blagojevich sprang his decision on the leaders during a meeting in his office Friday, shortly after the Senate approved a temporary budget that will keep the state operating through July.
"I informed all the leaders that I was going to call the General Assembly into special session so that the members are here...without fail every day, seven days a week until we pass a budget that helps people," Blagojevich said.
"There was an agreement on scheduling. He rescinded that agreement," said House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. "I've just come to expect stuff like this."
House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, called the episode "theater of the absurd."
"It's a huge cost to taxpayers," Cross said.
Senate Republicans said the special sessions will cost taxpayers at least $42,000 a day, including airplane flights for the governor and $125 in daily expense money for each lawmaker.
Lawmakers gave up their per diems after May 31, but the special session call means they will start collecting them again.
Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville, called the special session a "teacher a day" session because of its $40,000 cost.
"That's about what the salary of a teacher in my area would be, and that's a teacher a day," Watson said.
Blagojevich said any lawmaker concerned about saving money for the state can decline the expense allowance.
Blagojevich and the four leaders are far apart on a new budget. The governor and Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, favor large spending increases for education and health care, financed with expanded gambling and increased business taxes. Madigan, Watson and Cross want to limit budget increases, relying mainly on increased tax collections from economic expansion.
"We are still $3 billion apart," Madigan said Friday. "He has no new ideas on revenue generation. It's the same old stuff."
Blagojevich, though, said he will have "a whole series of all kinds of proposals to announce in the days and weeks ahead." The governor also said he wants to bring more rank-and-file members into budget discussions -- and maybe even the news media -- as a way to push along negotiations.
"It would be helpful to have you guys come in," Blagojevich told reporters.
Blagojevich said he will sign into law the temporary budget approved Friday. But he said the state cannot continue to pass monthly budgets.
"A continuing string of one-month budgets is nothing more than a Republican budget in disguise," Blagojevich said.
The Senate approved the one-month budget Friday on a 45-7 vote. The House passed it earlier this week.
"It should be called the Political Cover for Obstinate Leaders Act," said Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine. "It provides cover for people who need to check their egos at the door."
Area lawmakers had mixed reactions to the special sessions.
"These special sessions, if there's negotiations in earnest, are fine," said Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley. "If it is going to be more of the same, then it would be (a waste of money)."
"I think the governor ought to grow up," said Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria. "I don't mind being around, but I want work to be done. If he's just trying to jerk us around, then this is going to be war."
Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, will attend the special session, even though he was going to visit his daughter and grandchildren in Texas next week.
"I feel I owe it to my constituents to say here and fight for what I can for Springfield," Poe said, adding, "It's time for this guy to grow up. He just acts so childish."
"I'm not very happy," said Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg. "This whole thing's about a huge tax increase, and I don't think it's going to happen."
Brauer planned to go to a St. Louis Cardinals ballgame next week.
"Anybody want tickets?" he said.