Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers came together Tuesday to discuss the budget for the first time since last May, but it appears they made little progress in ending the five-month budget impasse that has settled over the state.
The long-awaited budget summit, originally scheduled for Nov. 18, was held at the State Capitol in front of a public audience for the first half hour. The meeting then proceeded behind closed doors for the actual budget negotiations.
As Rauner and the four ranking state Democrats and Republicans sat down and talked face-to-face about the state budget gridlock, House Speaker Mike Madigan offered an olive branch, saying he is renewing his commitment to work with the governor and Republican leaders, but adding that he has one condition.
"The solution to the budget deficit problem does not lie in the extreme but rather lies in moderation," Madigan said.
The state has been scraping by without a budget since July 1, and Tuesday's roundtable was the first step in coming up with a deal.
Rauner defended himself, saying the state has endured "years of financial challenges" that began long before he was elected last November. He also disputed Madigan's claim that his ideas were "extreme."
"I respectfully disagree that any of our ideas are extreme," Rauner said. "Every idea we are proposing has been done by other states."
Both sides agree, however, that they need to come up with a plan soon. The state may be unable to pay its bills in 2016 without a budget, and Chicago Public Schools are also at risk of a teachers strike at the start of the second semester without help from Springfield.
Shortly after the brief roundtable in Springfield, Rauner and the other lawmakers moved their meeting behind closed doors, but based on their public comments and finger-pointing, there appears to be little progress toward a deal.