The already bleak future of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor in Illinois got a bit bleaker last week with Governor Pat Quinn's new budget announcement: there's a grand total of $0 set aside for the office in the governor's 2011 budget.
It's been a tough several weeks for the post, which has been vacant since Pat Quinn left it to replace Rod Blagojevich as governor a year ago. First, there was the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Scott Lee Cohen. He lasted a little less than a week from nomination to resignation, amid allegations of forced sex, steroid abuse and threatening his ex-girlfriend--who happened to be a convicted prostitute-- with a knife to her throat. The empty spot on the Democratic ticket still hasn't been filled.
The Republican Party nominated 27-year-old Jason Plummer to be Bill Brady's running mate in the governor's race. Plummer has not presented the rosiest picture himself; attempting to combat suggestions that he's too young and inexperienced for the office, he found himself coming up speechless.
It wasn't much of a surprise, then, that House Speaker Mike Madigan found some bipartisan support for a bill to eliminate the position of lieutenant governor altogether.
And if Quinn's budget is any indication, he may be on board for just such a move. The budget meets the constitutional requirement of providing a salary for the lieutenant governor, but gives no funding to his or her office.
But Kelly Kraft, of the governor's office, cautioned Illinois Statehouse News not to read too much into the budget details.
"We're going to let the newly appointed, or newly elected, come in and frame his or her own budget," (Kraft said.)
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."
But with Quinn's delay in finding a running mate, plus powerful interests lining up against the office in the legislature, the lieutenant governor office might be one cut both parties could agree on.