Lester: Is there hope for state budget deal? Several suburban lawmakers say no

Bipartisan compromise appears to have eluded Illinois, according to suburban lawmakers deflated by the demise of a budget deal.

"We're all very concerned that it's dead," said state Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, who later wondered whether people would notice if rank-and-file lawmakers didn't show up to work in Springfield anymore.

"It feels very bleak down here right now," said Bush, who'd hoped the plan would end a 20-month impasse.

"Frustration is high and tempers are short," said Republican state Sen. Pam Althoff of McHenry. The state's unpaid bills have grown to $12.4 billion, reports the comptroller's office, forcing social services around the state to the brink of collapse.

Democrats blame interference by Gov. Bruce Rauner. But he and other Republicans say that was not the case.

Plan B?

Althoff and Republican state Sen. Mike Connelly of Wheaton said the plan - which had an income tax hike, property tax freeze and new way of dividing school funding - at least got lawmakers from opposing parties talking.

"I wouldn't say it's completely dead but we really need to start from scratch," Connelly said.

State Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, says there's no hope. Lawmakers should give up and hand the budget ax to Rauner, he said.

"It's not ideal, but we're going to continue to devastate our neediest citizens because we're not doing our job."

Looking for lifeguards

After having difficulties filling lifeguard jobs in recent years, the Des Plaines Park District has taken to advertising openings on signs outside of its community centers.

Jennifer Boys, who's overseen aquatics in Des Plaines for nearly 20 years, says teens' busy lives account for some of the lifeguard shortage.

Instead of 40 hours, the typical lifeguard now can work just 25, requiring the park district to hire about 120 lifeguards for the summer instead of the 80 it used to employ.

Not in my wheelhouse

You read here last week that an Elgin Township ethics ordinance says taxpayer-funded township offices shouldn't be used for political functions, but the Democratic candidate for township supervisor says Elgin Township Republicans meet and even record YouTube political messages at the building.

Who decides if there's a violation? Not township attorney Mark Schuster, who declined after receiving a letter about it. He replied, "I have not been appointed as the ethics officer of Elgin Township; the township clerk finds no record of such appointment, and I do not serve in that capacity."

Township Supervisor Annette Miller - a Republican - has said she's unaware if the group's actions violate the ordinance.

Telling taxes

If a suburban state senator has his way, presidential candidates would have to release five years of income tax returns to appear on the Illinois ballot.

The bill by Evanston Democrat Daniel Biss passed in committee and is being considered by the full chamber.

Going bald

Dionysia Panagiotopoulos of Plato Academy in Des Plaines tells me the small private Greek school has raised more than $6,000 for St. Baldrick's Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting pediatric cancer. Seventeen parents and students agreed to shave their heads as part of a fundraiser at the Lee Street campus.

Here in the newsroom, copy editor Brian Shamie also is sporting a shaved head and raised more than $1,500 for the foundation.

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"Frustration is high and tempers are short," state Sen. Pam Althoff of McHenry says after a budget compromise fell apart.
State Sen. Mike Connelly of Wheaton says there's slight hope for a budget deal, but "we really need to start from scratch."
State Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills says lawmakers should hand Gov. Bruce Rauner the budget ax if lawmakers can't agree.
  Elgin Township Republicans have come under fire for holding meetings out of the taxpayer-funded township building. Brian Hill/
State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston is sponsoring a bill that would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to get on the Illinois ballot.
Plato Academy students and parents raised more than $6,000 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation. Photo Courtesy Plato Academy
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