It's too bad most people never heard the Senate budget debate that occurred late Thursday night and early Friday morning. It would clear up so many things for people.

It's too bad most people never heard the Senate budget debate that occurred late Thursday night and early Friday morning. It would clear up so many things for people.


Here is Illinois facing a financial meltdown and senators were debating the spending plan that will take the state through next year. All of the standard elements of General Assembly political discourse were there. The political maneuvering. The finger-pointing. The airing of past petty grievances. By senators of both parties.


Instead of adults recognizing the grave problems facing the state and working in concert to solve them, the Senate sounded like a weird combination of bickering siblings and politicians staking out turf for the next election.


You listen to that debate and you no longer wonder how the state ended up with a $13 billion budget hole and no credible plan for dealing with it.


***********


Gov. PAT QUINN is getting extensive powers to "manage" the new budget. He got similar powers in the current state budget, a fact not lost on Republicans.


"What he managed to do was grow the deficit by $2 billion," said Sen. MATT MURPHY, R-Palatine, who doesn't think Quinn is up to the task of managing the budget.


"I believe he was a slow learner," said Sen. DONNE TROTTER, D-Chicago, who thinks Quinn will do a better job this time around.


***********


You may have heard that one reason the state has a $13 billion hole is the recession that has sapped state income and sales tax revenue. What to do? In Illinois you suggest a sales tax holiday that will further cut into revenues.


Quinn wanted the state to give up its part of the sales tax on school supplies and clothes for a few days in August. The estimated cost to the state ranged from $25 million to $50 million. Supporters argued that the break would spur purchases. There are financial types, though, who contend tax holidays don't increase sales, they simply change the time when people buy.


In either case, why would the state even consider doing this? It may be politically popular, but doing the popular thing isn't necessarily the responsible thing. Just proposing the idea is another case of sending mixed messages about the state's financial condition.


***********


"The state police director couldn't be here. He's attending his senior prom." -- Sen. JAMES DELEO, D-Chicago, on JONATHON MONKEN, who is 30, but looks a decade younger.


***********


"I'm not in favor at this point in time. I think people should pay their taxes." -- Sen. BILL BRADY of Bloomington, the Republican candidate for governor, on a tax amnesty program.


Presumably, that's assuming you haven't itemized your tax bill down to zero like Brady did.


***********


People desperately short of money sometimes do desperate things. That must have run through the minds of Commonwealth Edison and its parent company Exelon when they made what has to be one of the more unique offers ever to come before the General Assembly: We'll give you, the cash-strapped state of Illinois, $500 million. In exchange, you'll let us make a guaranteed 10.3 percent profit and let us freeze residential and small business rates for four years.


Freezing rates sounds good unless they would otherwise go down without a freeze, which some people think is going to happen. Both the Citizens Utility Board and Attorney General LISA MADIGAN blasted the plan as a bad deal for consumers. A Chicago newspaper found a Wall Street analyst who said the deal could be worth $4 billion to ComEd. That isn't a bad return on a $500 million investment, so it was a good deal for someone.


The ploy was classic Illinois Statehouse. Wait until the last minute to pop a huge, complicated deal on lawmakers and hope it gets approved before anyone can mount effective opposition. And in this case the deal came with the almost irresistible attachment of a large wad of money for the cash-strapped state.


The operative word is almost. The plan was roundly criticized from the start, and ComEd withdrew it.


Contact Doug Finke at doug.finke@sj-r.com.