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More political pork in Illinois

Illinois state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, talks about Illinois' budget crisis, as a roasted pig lies nearby.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. • A Metro East Republican just now delivered a message about fiscal restraint, accompanied by a side of bacon.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon (yes, the same McCarter who recently accused a fellow senator of punching him*), conducted a Statehouse news conference just now to accuse Democrats of not taking the budget crisis seriously. McCarter and other GOPs called for a $30 billion ceiling on the budget (it's a little over that now), with cuts and reforms designed to get rid of the major new income tax hike that went into effect this year.

"State government is like a pig at feeding time," McCarter told reporters. "The more you feed it . . . the more it wants."

Lines like that have been such standard fare from the Republican minority lately that just saying it doesn't get much media attention anymore. So McCarter delivered the message standing next to a 125-pound roasted pig that a butcher in his district had had shipped in to dramatize the pork-laden state budget.

"I'm buying lunch," said McCarter.

The Legislature is meeting today to addess a snag in the state's massive statewide construction program, and may take up legislative furloughs and union rights as well.

* McCarter last month alleged that fellow Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, punched him in the chest during a Senate floor argument over utility legislation. Jacobs was mad that McCarter had made a speech chiding Jacobs for ushering a bill friendly to the utility industry—for which Jacobs' father, ex-Sen. Denny Jacobs, D-East Moline, is a lobbyist.

The younger Jacobs has claimed the physical gesture in question was more of a tap than a punch, but he has issued a public apology.

For awhile there, it looked like this one might be headed to court (McCarter's complaint was forwarded to a local prosecutor, who declined to file charges), but things seem to have settled down.

"I just talked to him today. I don't have anything against him," McCarter said of Jacobs after today's news conference. He insisted he wasn't accusing Jacobs of impropriety in pushing the pro-utility bill, but only of failing to avoid "the appearance of impropriety."