SPRINGFIELD — Was Gov. J.B. PRITZKER trying to lower expectations for his first budget proposal or start setting the stage for a graduated income tax? Or both?
The occasion was the release of a report from Pritzker's budget transition team, subtly titled "Digging Out: The Rauner Wreckage Report."
It basically documented the carnage heaped on state finances and other operations from the budget impasse and other misfires from former Gov. BRUCE RAUNER. At least, that's the way the report reads.
Cut through all of the "Rauner was bad" verbiage and the bottom line is that state finances are in worse shape than Pritzker and probably most everyone thought they were, hard as that is to believe. That means Pritzker will have his work cut out for him as he promises to deliver a balanced budget while promising more money for education, human services and others and still deal with the old financial problems.
This promises to be one interesting budget when Pritzker delivers it Feb. 20.
* As many expected, the Illinois Senate approved an increase in the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
And, as expected, it was a party line vote. Democrats voted for the bill and Republicans voted against it. The House will take up the bill this coming week and chances are you will see the same thing happen there.
It's curious that Pritzker chose the minimum wage bill as the first big thing he wanted lawmakers to pass. Since the election, he's been preaching virtually nonstop about working with Republicans to find common ground in solving the state's problems.
For the record, Pritzker said all parties were at the table when the wage bill was negotiated.
"We took into consideration all that we needed to," he said.
We'll have to see if there is any residual fallout from Pritzker and the legislature doing a fairly partisan bill right out of the gate.
* There was a bit of an oops Thursday when the votes were tallied on the minimum wage bill.
There were 39 "yes" votes on the electronic tally board and 18 "no" votes. Students of both mathematics and government know that adds up to 57. There are 59 senators.
A quick check showed that one of those who didn't vote was Senate President JOHN CULLERTON who pushed the chamber to quickly pass the wage increase and give Pritzker a victory. The official word from Cullerton's office later was that the president was so wrapped up in watching the vote unfold, he forgot to cast his own vote.
The president's office has filed a letter to put into the official Senate record indicating he intended to vote for the bill.
* Illinois House members were treated to a little history lesson when the first bill ever passed by the General Assembly was put on display.
It didn't deal with gambling expansion or the like so it is only one page long. It essentially said British common law was the law in Illinois. Remember it was a new state and lawmakers didn't have the chance yet to fill up multiple books of laws.
Several people signed the bill including Gov. SHADRACH BOND, Lt. Gov. PIERRE MENARD and the Speaker of the House. Insert your own "Was it Madigan" joke here.
Spoiler alert: JOHN MESSINGER was the first House Speaker.
* A bit of history from looking up the first bill: Lawmakers first met on Oct. 5, 1818, and spent a week doing organizational things. However, lawmakers couldn't pass any bills because Illinois still wasn't a state.
Consequently, the legislature adjourned its first session, waited until Illinois actually became a state in December, and then returned in January 1819 to pass its first bill.