Three things Obama won’t be doing in Springfield


By Chicago Tribune

Here is the Morning Spin, a weekday feature from the Tribune that catches readers up to what’s going on in Illinois government and politics.

What Obama’s visit will (not) entail.

Here are three things President Barack Obama won’t do during his swing through Springfield on Wednesday:


Play “back-seat driver” and offer detailed advice to try to solve the state’s budget stalemate; sit down one-on-one with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for a beer; try to negotiate a peace accord between Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Previewing the trip, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Obama will pick up the themes of his State of the Union speech in January and urge the country to move past partisan divisions.

The president also will talk about how the way campaigns are financed has made politics more polarized. And Obama will accept his share of responsibility for the partisan gridlock that has worsened since he became president, and recall how he worked across the aisle as a state senator.

Obama’s trip falls on the ninth anniversary of the 2007 kickoff of his first White House run, which he launched in a speech on the steps of the Old State Capitol. The president was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996 and served until he won a U.S. Senate seat in 2004.

After the speech, he’ll visit with “supporters, stakeholders and volunteers” watching the address off-site, another White House official said.

As for the state’s budget impasse, his call for bipartisanship could help, but he won’t be putting forth detailed remedies, Earnest said. For one thing, Obama’s proposed federal budget comes up the day before his trip to Illinois.

“We’ve got our hands full here,” the spokesman said.


Rauner’s office invited Obama to join the governor for a beer at a Springfield watering hole. Earnest did not rule out a meeting between the two — but don’t expect a bilateral sit-down over suds.

When a reporter asked Earnest if the Rauner-Madigan standoff made for a big challenge for the White House, the spokesman said Obama’s message is “much broader” and hopefully will be heard by more than just two top elected officials in the state. 

More bad news about the budget.

A key credit ratings agency has issued yet another warning about the future of Illinois’ public universities, saying the lack of state funding is not only causing immediate financial harm but creating long-term damage to recruitment and enrollment.

The notice from Moody’s Investors Service comes after Chicago State University declared financial crisis and Eastern Illinois University in Charleston prepares to send layoff notices to roughly 200 noninstructional employees as schools struggle to make ends meet without the normal operating dollars from the state.

Moody’s said the longer the budget impasse continues, “the greater the likelihood” more universities would follow Chicago State in declaring financial exigency, the term used in academia that equates to a financial emergency. Such a declaration makes it easier for universities to lay off workers, including tenured professors who have more employment protections.

Last week, the accreditation agency that oversees the state’s public colleges and universities asked the schools to submit plans detailing how they will accommodate students if the budget crisis forces them to close.


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