SPRINGFIELD - Former Republican Govs. Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson say lawmakers are getting off easy in this budget fight and the state's current chief executive needs to ramp up the pressure.
Edgar suggested Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, keep the House and Senate at the Capitol and wear them down as the political pressure builds, saying it worked for him during the protracted 1991 budget fight.
"The key is, I remember in '91 one of the things we thought helped us was finally, by about the third week in July, the members, the rank and file, wanted to go home. They'd seen all the movies and played all the golf they wanted to play and eaten enough at all the restaurants. They were really tired," Edgar said.
"It was an interesting phenomenon. You could just tell the rank and file finally just started beefing so much I think the leaders - knew they needed to get something resolved."
Neither Thompson nor Edgar thought much of the budget plan lawmakers approved in May but haven't yet sent to Gov. Quinn. That budget only covers about half the year's spending and leaves it to Quinn to make cuts.
"I don't know why the governor would sign the budget they gave him and then make all these horrendous cuts," Thompson said.
But if Quinn does sign it, Thompson said he'd take it for what it is, a six-month plan, and not a real budget.
"They gave him a six-month budget, I would think if he's going to sign the budget, sign the budget and keep spending the money at the current level and put the responsibility right back where it belongs - on the legislature. The governor can't legislate. He's made it clear what he would like to see happen. It's up to the legislature to respond. So far they haven't," Thompson said.
Thompson, who served longer than any other governor in state history, did offer a disclaimer with his comments: "I'm not in the business of giving advice to public officials through the press."
Edgar also said that the partial budget shouldn't be approved, but again suggested Quinn keep lawmakers on the job until they come up with something better.
"As governor, what you've got to do is different from the legislative branch of government. I don't think sometimes the legislators understand what it takes to manage a government as large and diverse as the state of Illinois. You can't do it with a six-month budget. You can't do it with a budget that everybody knows you can't get through a fiscal year with it. You need a realistic budget," Edgar said.
"I think he's got to keep them there even if they don't want to be there until they get something resolved one way or the other," Edgar said. "Or he'll just have an impossible managerial nightmare."