Following Tuesday’s leaders meeting in Chicago, House Speaker Michael Madigan accused Gov. Bruce Rauner of holding the state budget hostage to “help his wealthy friends and corporations.”
After making the claim, Madigan brushed off requests for an explanation. During Tuesday's press conference, the speaker once again pushed for working groups, a move Rauner and the Republicans have frequently dismissed.
Madigan proposed establishing working groups for a series of non-budget issues, including education, pensions, workers’ compensation, local government consolidation and the elimination of mandates on local governments. Madigan also pushed for rank-and-file members of the legislature to aid in the state’s negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.
“This would be in response to the governor’s request for what he would characterize as a turnaround agenda,” Madigan said. “These are all issues that are pending before the legislature. They’re such that the members of the legislature and those who have become expert in these areas should participate in the discussions, should participate in the decision-making, in terms of trying to move toward an agreement on moving bills that would make all of these changes."
Madigan claimed House Democrats are “full participants in attempting to resolve those issues.”
Nevertheless, Rauner’s office issued a statement admonishing the speaker Tuesday afternoon.
“Today the Speaker refused to put forward a budget proposal and refused to commit to passing any budget whatsoever after December 31st,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement. “Republicans will not consider revenue without reform. Only Speaker Madigan has proposed raising the income tax."
"As the Speaker stalls to force a crisis, we call on the majority to pass term limits and a permanent property tax freeze before any consideration of Speaker Madigan’s stopgap spending plan,” Kelly added.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno called Tuesday’s meeting “substantive,” noting that the two sides were able to discuss a budget. Radogno expressed her intent to pass an 18-month budget that would cover the remaining six months of fiscal year 2017, as well as the entire fiscal year 2018.
“That is doable,” Radogno said. “It has not been done before. That absolutely does not mean it can’t be done."
However, Radogno faulted Democrats for lacking a “sense of urgency,” claiming that Madigan and his staff aren’t worried about passing a budget before the end of the year. Radogno lauded the working groups’ contributions to budget negotiations, but wouldn't support them moving forward.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin also faulted the Democrats’ alleged lack of urgency, claiming a budget deal can be made before the end of the year.
“For somebody to say that we can’t get something done over the next three weeks is absurd,” Durkin said. “All of us have seen over the years, major pieces of legislation and budgets have been turned around in a matter of days if there is a willingness on behalf of the parties to get something done."
“So to suggest that we cannot get a framework or get a budget passed by the end of this calendar year, to me, is a cop out,” he added.
Durkin urged Democratic leaders to come to Thursday’s meeting with parameters for their budget. State Rep. Greg Harris, who is leading the House Democrats’ budget negotiating team, scoffed at the request.
“I think what the Republican leader said is, ‘we’ve got a 5,500 line budget, why don’t you guys just go write it down on an envelope and bring it back here next week,’” Harris said. “We did not agree to that. We agreed to go back and talk to our members about the governor’s position, that he does not wish to involve working groups, which is what our members prefer.”
Following the meeting, Senate President John Cullerton said he was excited to see the Republicans’ budget parameters.
“That’ll be a good discussion,” Cullerton said. “It wouldn’t be just our parameters, right?"
The next leaders meeting is set for Thursday morning. The state's current stopgap spending plan is set to expire at the end of the month.