Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner tried to isolate House Speaker Michael Madigan on Wednesday, suggesting the veteran legislative leader was “in charge” and should wrangle Democrats into passing a $4 billion tax hike on their own or strike a deal with the governor to support his economic agenda and put an end to a budget impasse.
As part of his latest move against Madigan, Rauner unveiled a mammoth, cost-cutting pension bill he said was aimed at solving government worker retirement system funding problems from the Capitol to City Hall to Downstate and suburban village halls. The plan, Rauner said, incorporated ideas from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Senate President John Cullerton — like Madigan, all Democrats.
* OK, now let’s revisit my Crain’s Chicago Business column from Monday…
After a cooling-off period of about a week, the Senate president went back to working out a deal. But he wasn’t willing to do to Madigan what Madigan did to him on the 2015 budget. When the speaker wouldn’t sign off on a key component of Cullerton’s plan, the president backed off. The Rauner folks were foiled again.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel also has refused to put Madigan on the spot, even after Rauner offered his school district some much-needed cash to help with its $634 million pension payment. Emanuel instead borrowed a bunch of money and made the pension payment. He also announced mass layoffs and other big cuts, a property tax hike of up to $250 million. He also requested a $500 million loan from the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund.
Chicago Public Schools still faces the very real threat of insolvency, however, which means Emanuel’s in an extremely vulnerable position.
The question now becomes whether Rauner can use these fiscal calamities to pressure Emanuel into using all his powers to force Madigan, the most powerful Democrat in Illinois, to find some common ground with the governor’s “turnaround agenda” before Chicago implodes.
In watching Madigan for 25 years, I think that guy is willing to wait this thing out. He wants to test Rauner’s mettle and force him to finally get out of campaign mode.
It could take a while.
* Back to the Tribune piece…
But the governor’s attempt to spotlight Madigan as the reason for the dysfunction did little to disrupt the united front put forth by Democrats, who dismissed the governor’s latest plans as an insincere effort that didn’t offer much toward reaching a middle ground.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown didn’t give Rauner’s isolation tactics much credence, reflecting on the governor’s claims dating back to the November election. Then, Rauner in his victory speech made it seem as if he had just gotten off the phone with Madigan and Cullerton. It was later revealed he had not personally spoken to either.
“It’s sort of like Election Day phone calls. You don’t know who he’s actually talking to. Not much new there,” Brown said. “It’s amazing that he doesn’t recognize he’s been unpersuasive on a statewide basis with all these ideas. He ignores the fact that he’s totally responsible at this juncture that employees weren’t paid on time. He is singularly responsible. He held that power.”