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Madigan’s actions show no fear of Rauner

Sunday, May 29, 2016 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

After what happened last week it’s more clear than ever that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has no fear of what Gov. Rauner could do to his members this fall. And Madigan has even less fear of what his members could do to him.

As you certainly know by now, Madigan lumped together a $40 billion appropriations plan with what the governor’s budget office says is a $7.5 billion hole in it. The budget office claims the bill would require a 5.5 percent personal income tax rate to sustain and the state comptroller estimates would create $15 billion in backlogged bills and an 8-9 month payment delay.

Madigan’s move was at least partially designed to put Republicans on the defense yet again this fall for voting against their local schools and colleges, facilities and various government programs.

Republican threats to tie Madigan’s “most unbalanced budget in Illinois history” around his members’ necks did not phase him. Madigan’s own polling reportedly shows Donald Trump doing pretty well everywhere except Cook County and that didn’t budge him. And just about all of Madigan’s most politically vulnerable members voted for the highly controversial legislation - another very clear signal that his political side doesn’t care a whit about Rauner’s threats to retaliate.

Yes, the Republicans have their “Bad King Madigan” bogeyman, the Democrats concede, and the Republicans used it again last week in tens of thousands of robocalls targeted at seven House Democratic incumbents. The calls claimed that the members backed “Speaker Mike Madigan’s job-crushing, $1,000 tax hike on Illinois families,” which would also “increase Illinois’ debt by $7 billion and force record high income tax rates.”

The Republicans also released results of a statewide “flash poll” conducted last Thursday night which they claim validates their planned messaging against Madigan and the Democrats this fall. 74 percent of the 884 voters who responded to the Victory Phones poll said they opposed “a budget that would spend $7.2 billion more than what state takes in and force a 47 percent tax increase on all Illinoisans.” Another 57 percent said they opposed a “state budget that includes a half billion dollar Chicago Public School bailout.” 71 percent said “rank-and-file Democrats should break with the Speaker and work with the Governor to balance the budget even if it means compromising on issues favored by labor unions.” And 61 percent said they’d be less likely to vote for a legislator who “voted for a budget with a $7 billion deficit that would force income tax rates over 5.5 percent.”

To the Republicans, those are slam-dunk issues that will resonate strongly with voters. The Democrats, they say, simply don’t understand the public’s mood. They believe they have the Democrats exactly where they want them and that Madigan has ironically put them in that position by passing the unbalanced budget and refusing to negotiate on the governor’s economic reforms that Rauner claims will help revitalize the state’s economy.

But Madigan’s side points to Rauner’s ever-tanking poll ratings as proof they can use him against Republican candidates, and they’ll toss in Donald Trump wherever the presidential candidate is unpopular.

And while voters always say they want a balanced budget, they almost always recoil when told what that would actually entail. Details of the $7.5 billion in cuts which “the Trump/Rauner Republicans demanded” via the governor’s expected veto will make for some grisly campaign advertisements. The Senate Democrats did pretty much just that to the Republicans during the last presidential campaign cycle and picked up seats despite raising the income tax by 67 percent - which is a big reason why the governor has twice now refused to submit a truly balanced budget. Once the Republicans vote against overriding Rauner’s budget veto for the second year in a row, they’ll be on the record for huge cuts.

The governor has said for over a year that Madigan’s Democrats privately tell him they’re ready to work with him. But there’s little evidence that they’ll work with Rauner at the expense of crossing Madigan. Just the opposite, in fact. They could’ve killed that budget bill and changed the course of Illinois history by forcing Madigan to the bargaining table, but they stuck with their guy.

Madigan was in a good mood Thursday night as he dined with some of his members. Gov. Rauner was also said to be at peace. Now that an all-out political war is all but certain, they can come to terms with it and steel themselves for the future.


  1. - cdog - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 2:22 pm:

    “Madigan was in a good mood Thursday night as he dined with some of his members.”

    His tactics are for sure above my pay grade. For the sake of all who need relief from this mess, and are trusting him to lead past it, I hope his plan works.

  2. - Norseman - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 2:23 pm:

    Is there an expectation that regardless of what compromise they agree to, Rauner and the GOP will use Rauner’s millions to try and hang the tax albatross around Democrat necks. The response to that expectation is to avoid letting Rauner claim any victory.

  3. - AC - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 2:47 pm:

    ==a budget with a $7 billion deficit that would force income tax rates over 5.5 percent==

    Would it really be both? I thought it was either a tax hike or a $7 billion defict.

  4. - Captain Illini - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 3:39 pm:

    I believe - even though I’m a conservative - that the Speaker has the winning hand so far…and the Gov’s is holding a pair of two’s and trying to bluff. I cannot get my head around the Gov’s strategy, other than cleaning house of the GOP and planning to switch parties before the next election…

  5. - Formerly Known As... - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 4:40 pm:

    No fear of Rauner, and no concern for Illinois.

    Failure to pass a balnced budget 4 straight years. 14 years of deficits.

    No compromise. No reforms. No change. No progress.

  6. - an independent - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 5:12 pm:

    I just don’t understand the Republican point of view. What is to stop the Governor from simply using the item veto or the reduction veto? Madigan does not have the votes to override. Why the outrage? Or, is the real issue that the Democrats won’t throw labor under the bus for what we all know is a necessary and inevitable tax increase?

  7. - Tito - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 6:34 pm:

    My money is on Rauner in the long haul. Younger, better financed and actions that spring from ideas that can bring true change.
    Madigan=old dude who would change nothing.

  8. - Anonymous - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 6:46 pm:

    ==I just don’t understand the Republican point of view. What is to stop the Governor from simply using the item veto or the reduction veto?==

    He says it’s “too hard”.

  9. - RJN - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 6:56 pm:

    Amendatory vetoes only require a majority to override.

  10. - Pot calling kettle - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 7:26 pm:

    ===What is to stop the Governor from simply using the item veto or the reduction veto? ===

    The voters hate tax hikes, but they hate actual cuts even more. If the governor used his line item veto, all the ads he could buy would not dig the Republicans out of the hole.

  11. - an independent - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 7:58 pm:

    true of a reduction veto, rjn, not true with a line item veto, it takes 3/5ths

  12. - IRLJ - Sunday, May 29, 16 @ 8:16 pm:

    House Democrats do not have a functioning super-majority.
    Hence, stalemate.
    Nothing will happen until and unless the Dems pick up seats.
    Or, until Republicans who until now have been bought and paid-for by Rauner, revolt.

  13. - Tax$ForBuyngCivilization - Monday, May 30, 16 @ 12:32 am:

    ===They could’ve killed that budget bill and changed the course of Illinois history by forcing Madigan to the bargaining table, but they stuck with their guy.===

    I think Rauner’s behavior over the last two years has made it very difficult for any legislator to trust him, and more to the point I don’t think there’s really any cuts that any of the Democratic legislators really want to make in that budget.

    It’s not really a compromise when it’s a debate about which fingers to cut off.

  14. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, May 30, 16 @ 12:34 am:

    ==Nothing will happen until and unless the Dems pick up seats.==

    Respectfully, Madigan is not going ram through another tax increase on a party line vote. More seats for Dems will not change anything, because the number of seats is not the obstruction.

  15. - kemald - Monday, May 30, 16 @ 3:31 am:

    A veto of an appropriation measure requires a three-fifths majority to override, whereas a reduction veto or can be overridden by a simple majority. Illinois Constitution, Article IV, Section 9 (d): “An item reduced in amount shall be returned to the house in which it originated and may be restored to its original amount in the same manner as a vetoed bill except that the required record vote shall be a majority of the members elected to each house.”

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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