(Springfield, IL) — March 17, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn‘s budget is not doing anything to make Illinois’ odd situation with the lieutenant governor’s office any less odd.
Quinn has said since the debacle with Scott Lee Cohen — which left the Democrats without a lieutenant governor candidate – that he supports keeping the position. However, the governor zeroed out the office budget for the state’s number two spot in his current spending plan.
After allegations of domestic abuse against him became more well known, Cohen who won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor stepped down from the ticket. A committee of Democratic Party leaders is selecting his replacement.
Kelly Kraft with the governor’s office cautioned not to read too much into that.
“We’re going to let the newly appointed, or newly elected, come in and frame his or her own budget.”
The budget does contain a salary for the post of lieutenant governor, as required by the state Constitution and set by a state compensation review board. Whoever voters elect will receive an annual salary of $139,200 for fiscal year 2011.
Two of the candidates who want to become the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor said they’d hope to have the ability to handle their own office budget.
Lieutenant governor applicant Sheila Simon said she expects funding changes to the office before the overall state budget is final. She said the office should not be immune to cuts, but noted it serves a key role in state government.
“I think the governor knows the kind of impact of lieutenant governor,” Simon said. “There’s a lot of good the office could do.”
Simon’s father is the late Paul Simon, who served as lieutenant governor early in his political career. He later served as a Democratic U.S. Senator from Illinois before establishing the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Sheila Simon teaches law at SIU-C.
Bryan Zises, a spokesperson for Art Turner another person applying for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, said Turner’s campaign is not concerned with Quinn’s budget. He said Turner does not “take offense” to the fact that funding for the office was not included in the budget, noting that it’s still early in the budget season.
“Quite frankly, this budget is a first draft in a long process,” Zises said. “The lieutenant governor’s office contains a lot of value, and Quinn knows it contains a lot of value.”
Quinn said he hopes the Democratic leaders in charge of selecting a candidate keep the value of the office in mind.
“We’re got to have a good person as lieutenant governor, who can be a people person. That’s what I tried to do when I was lieutenant governor, be an advocate for ordinary people. Especially veterans and service members and their families,” Quinn said recently.
But Quinn would not say if he has a favorite candidate for the job. Quinn’s first choice, Tammy Duckworth, turned him down to stay with her job with the federal agency serving veterans. But Quinn said he’s willing to wait for Democratic leaders to make their decision.
“Very shortly we’ll have a good pick. There’ll be a vote…on the 27th of March. “
Kraft said Quinn will restore the office budget for the second-in-command after the Nov. 2 election.
“He will come into veto session in November and he will ask for a supplemental, then there will be a vote.”
There also is money left over from Quinn’s interrupted term when he took over last January as governor.
–Benjamin Yount and Bill McMorris, Illinois Statehouse News