Is Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH being conciliatory? Or does he have some devious plan in mind for dealing with the state budget?

Is Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH being conciliatory? Or does he have some devious plan in mind for dealing with the state budget?


About the best anyone had to say about Blagojevich’s budget speech last week was that it was short — 22 minutes. It is believed to be a new record.


Other than that, there was griping that it lacked even the minimal detail of his previous budget speeches. The whole thing — the speech, the supporting budget documents, everything — had the feel of a school term paper tossed together the night before it was due. Blagojevich might as well have cut his speech to three lines: “I’m required to give you a budget. Here it is. I’m outta here.”


For once, Blagojevich didn’t use the speech to demonize anyone. He didn’t toss out any instantly controversial ideas, such as last year’s gross-receipts tax. He even reached out to the business community, which is one of his favorite whipping boys.


Some lawmakers took it as a sign Blagojevich is trying to make amends after a particularly nasty year. If he is, said House Minority Leader TOM CROSS, R-Oswego, good for him, but it will take a lot more than one speech to do the job.


Another view is that given the current climate in the General Assembly, Blagojevich knew his budget would be a non-starter. So why worry about details?


Now he just sits back and waits for lawmakers to do what they were going to do anyway, which is craft their own spending plan. If gridlock sets in again, Blagojevich rides in with a grand scheme to salvage things. If gridlock doesn’t set in and a budget gets passed, Blagojevich still gets a whack at it with his veto pen.


The problem is, lawmakers are pretty fed up with Blagojevich’s grandstanding. They’re likely to just ignore any attempt by him to play White Knight in a budget deadlock. And if he vetoes a budget they approve, it will probably take them about five minutes to override.


*It’s bad enough that the administration offered precious few details of its budget plan, but some of the details they gave were flat wrong.


In one part of the budget documents, there’s a reference to charging higher tolls for heavy trucks on Illinois’ tollways. Questioned about it, the administration said it was included by mistake.


There’s something in the Department of Natural Resources budget called a “new environmental regulatory fee.” DNR says the budget materials are wrong, that it is an old fee the state wants to increase.


Another packet of materials shows budget and headcount numbers for several state agencies. It came with a disclaimer that none of the numbers reflect the 3 percent across-the-board cuts Blagojevich says he needs to balance the budget. Completely useless.


You can’t very well expect anyone to take your budget seriously when it’s riddled with errors.


*One part of the speech was vintage Blagojevich. That was the tax breaks — $300 per child for families and a 20 percent reduction for businesses that pay the state’s corporate income tax. The family tax break is just the kind of thing that Blagojevich can run all over the state touting. You can already hear his line. “I want to give money to hard-working men and women” blah, blah, blah.


How to pay for the tax breaks is also vintage Blagojevich. He basically wants to borrow against future state revenue used to pay for health-care programs. It’s not clear how that money will be replaced.


Oh, and did we mention that the borrowing will pay for a one-time-only tax break? It does.   


*Some reaction to the speech:


“We can always count on Governor Blagojevich to give a fine speech.” — House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, tongue planted firmly in cheek.


“Short and shallow.” — Illinois Chamber of Commerce president DOUG WHITLEY.


  “It was superfluous.” — Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. That was a criticism.


*Blagojevich coincidentally delivered his speech on Hoodie-Hoo Day.

That’s the day people are supposed to go outside at noon and shout “Hoodie Hoo” to drive away winter.


Given the reaction to his speech, Blagojevich would have been just as effective yelling hoodie hoo for 20 minutes outside the Capitol.


Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or