Rauner and Madigan’s war of words over budget impasse continues

By Monique Garcia, Chicago Tribune

The war of words continued at the Capitol on Tuesday, with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner accusing Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan of purposely standing in the way of a budget deal in order to create enough chaos to force a tax increase.

The comments represent the first-year governor’s latest attack on the long-serving Madigan, who Rauner argues is the “problem” in breaking an impasse that has state government operating in its fourth week without a complete spending plan.

Madigan was quick to shoot back, saying Democrats sent Rauner a budget but that the governor decided to veto most of it instead of using his powers to choose what should be funded and what should be cut. That proposal, like the spending plan Rauner put forth in February, was several billion dollars short.


Without a full budget, social service agencies that rely on tax dollars soon will begin to run out of money and may have to lay off workers and cut services ranging from home care for the elderly to therapy for patients with autism.

Rauner contended that Madigan is deliberately putting social programs at risk to build pressure so that Democrats who control the legislature vote for a tax increase to offset a multimillion-dollar budget deficit. Rauner says that even though Madigan has a veto-proof majority, there isn’t uniform support for a tax hike.

“I think the speaker wants pressure, he wants impact now before he’ll do the right thing. He knows what should happen, because many members of his caucus know we should compromise and work this out, but they want impact,” Rauner said. “They want people hit by [the] lack of a budget before they’ll take action. It’s wrong, I don’t agree with it, but it’s his style and we’ll just have to deal with it the best we can.”

Madigan countered that Rauner was also to blame for the turmoil, and the House held a daylong hearing to highlight the problems created by the lack of a budget, including the closure of some county fairs and the suspension of a program that helps low-income people pay for electricity.

“He seems to forget that the legislature sent him a spending plan that would help protect middle-class families,” Madigan said during what has become a weekly media briefing. “He was advised on more than one occasion that he could have worked with that spending plan using his powers under the constitution to line-item veto, to reduction veto, to fashion a spending plan that would be good for the people of the state of Illinois and help protect middle-class families. He chose not to do that, he chose to do an outright veto and put us all in the situation that we are in today.”

Rauner has sought to use the budget-making process to push through a sweeping political agenda that would freeze property taxes, put term limits in place, curb union power and reduce business costs by overhauling the workers’ compensation program and reducing large civil lawsuit payments. The governor contends those ideas must be put in place before he would consider raising taxes or finding more money for the budget.

Madigan repeatedly has said that Rauner is acting in the “extreme” and has suggested that Democrats are fundamentally opposed to many of those proposals because they would harm workers and dilute the middle class. He contends that Rauner’s wish list is full of “nonbudgetary” items and are “diversions” from the yearly budget-making process.


In the meantime, the House continued to float a series of one-month stop-gap budget plans that Rauner has said he won’t sign. The latest proposal, which would fund local fairs and pay for energy assistance for the poor, was adopted as an amendment on an existing bill but was not called for a full vote.

That’s partially because as the budget impasse drags on, fewer lawmakers are showing up. Just 96 of 118 House members made the trip to Springfield on Tuesday, while the Senate is not scheduled to return until next week.

Still, Madigan maintained that progress was being made, even though he’s previously expressed doubt that an overall budget deal can be reached.

“I think we’re making progress because certain members of the legislature, you, and the people of Illinois are getting an opportunity to fully understand what is at issue in this budget stalemate,” Madigan said. “That’s the benefit I see.”