SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich is asking state lawmakers to delay his budget speech by nearly two months as he grapples with a new administration and a massive state deficit.
A House committee approved without opposition Wednesday a measure to let Blagojevich present his budget for next year by April 9, instead of by Feb. 19 as required by state law.
The full House is expected to take up the measure Thursday, said the sponsor, Rep. Gary Hannig, D-Litchfield.
Blagojevich, who took office last month, says Illinois faces a budget hole of nearly $5 billion by next year. He's looking at spending cuts and ways to raise revenues to make up the difference in a budget that may reach $53 billion.
Blagojevich's office originally was considering a one-month extension on the budget speech. A spokeswoman did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday on why the Democratic governor needs additional time.
Blagojevich's wife, Patti, is due to deliver their second child in mid-March.
Hannig said Blagojevich wanted more time to fully examine his options.
The delay means lawmakers will have only about six weeks to study Blagojevich's proposal and negotiate changes before the spring legislative session scheduled ending of May 23.
Legislators must have a budget passed by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Hannig, the top budget negotiator for the House Democrats, said Blagojevich is making a reasonable request under the circumstances.
"We're looking at a deficit that Governor Blagojevich inherited to some degree, and if he doesn't right the ship we're going to continue to go in the wrong direction," Hannig said. "So he's looking to try to turn things around, and we're trying to give him the time."
House Republican Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said his caucus will not try to block the governor's request, as long as it doesn't create too many obstacles.
"I don't want to go too far, but I think a deliberate approach is OK," Cross said. "We're not going to be obstructionists when it comes to trying to work out the budget."