Sunday’s Hour-Long Legislative Leaders Meeting May Yield Some Movement on Budget Talks

State Capitol, June 25 –  Following  an hour-long meeting of Legislative Leaders, that did not include the Governor, participants talked with the press and shared some comments that could be interpreted as some positive progress, or… it could be that Speaker Madigan just laid down markers that would cause the governor to balk at an agreement.

House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters that Republican leaders are continuing to talk about “off-budget” issues.  Madigan said that prompted him to say, therefore he too would add items to the off-budget list of demands that he would want to have happen, before agreeing to a budget deal.

Speaker Madigan on Sunday, June 25, tells reporters of his “off budget” demands, as he left a meeting with other legislative leaders

Madigan said, “Number one, I expect the Governor to sign SB-1, which changes the school aid formula.  Number two, I expect the Governor to sign a bill that would regulate rates of Workers Compensation companies. Number three, I would expect the Governor to sign a bill that would subject this current “purchase of care” negotiations to the requirement of the procurement code. And transparency in the ‘purchase of care’ contract.”

Speaker Madigan’s demands run counter to some of the Governor’s stated positions on legislation. The governor has indicated in the past, that he would not sign SB-1, the education funding reform bill which passed the House and Senate with Democratic votes, as it includes money for the Chicago Teachers pension payment, which the governor has said is a bailout.

In recent weeks, the Republicans put together their own version of a funding reform package for education that does not include funding for the Chicago Teachers pensions, but rather puts more money toward helping schools across the state.

So in this game of political chicken, where the clock is ticking toward the July 1 new fiscal year start, and the state is increasingly in a desperate financial condition, with over $15 Billion in unpaid bills, Speaker Madigan has laid down his markers on what his demands are — and in his fashion — has waited until the 11th hour to make his demands known.

When asked if the Speaker would give a property tax freeze — which is a key issue pushed by the Governor– Speaker Madigan said, “I have told Republican Leaders that in the House, we are working on a bill that would freeze real-estate taxes.”

Speaker Madigan shows his hand, with his own set of “non-budget” demands as part of the budget negotiations

The Speaker has long held that the budget standoff is the direct result of Gov Rauner insisting on passage of elements of his “Turn Around Agenda” which the Speaker has maintained includes items — such as term-limits, and reforms of how political districts are drawn — which the Speaker [ and some Republican lawmakers], say are NOT budget items and should not be part of a budget negotiation.

After listing his own three non-budget demands, the Speaker repeated what he has often said to the press, “Let me repeat what I’ve said over two and a half years, when the ‘Turn Around’ agenda has been dropped, Illinois has passed seven budget bills.”

When asked by reporters how it was helpful that the Speaker now has his own list of “none budget” demands, Madigan said, “I told the Republican leaders — please go down and tell the governor this is a negotiation and no one gets 100% of what they demand.”

Madigan said he was open on the question of how long to impose a property tax freeze, [the governor wants a minimum of four years]  but noted this would damage local funding of education.

He said the House Democrats are only considering a property tax freeze because the Governor has made that a priority in these negotiations, but then added that in his view, Gov Rauner was trying to apply an extreme “Right-wing agenda” on the people of Illinois, by holding the budget hostage to his demands.

Speaker Madigan said the plan now is for the four legislative leaders to next meet on Tuesday.  When asked if it would be helpful for the Governor to attend these meetings, he said, “I’m not going to go there.”


House Republican Leader Jim Durkin reacts to the Speaker’s press comments

Following the Speaker’s comments, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin spoke briefly with reporters.  He noted that the House Democrats have yet to put forth their own version of a budget, and that it’s hard to negotiate when the Speaker has not put his version of a budget out.

But Leader Durkin did say that he thought it amazing that a legislative leader would say that the effort to lower the burden of property taxes on the people of Illinois was part of a “Right-Wing Agenda” was ridiculous.