Lawmakers returned to Springfield for the first time following Rod Blagojevich’s removal from office, and began to focus on more routine legislative matters such as introducing new legislation. Top legislative leaders had their first meeting with new Governor Pat Quinn.

There is a real sense of optimism in the Capitol and leaders seem eager to work together, which is good because cooperation and bipartisanship will be needed to address the state’s worsening budget crisis.

According to a report released this week by Comptroller Daniel Hynes, the state could be facing an unprecedented $9 billion budget deficit—double the budget hole that Blagojevich faced when he took office in 2003.

The Comptroller said the state will have $23 billion on hand when the fiscal year begins in July, but Illinois’ obligations are approximately $32 billion. Even if the federal government provides as much as $3 billion in the form of possible stimulus funding, that could leave a $6 billion deficit that lawmakers and the governor must address.

Although some have questioned the accuracy of Comptroller Hynes’ estimate, most officials acknowledge that Illinois faces severe financial problems.

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