Rauner, Madigan begin budget talks for rest of the fiscal year


Source: Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Gov. Bruce Rauner listens to President Barack Obama speak in Chicago. Rauner and the General Assembly are entering into a new round of budget talks during their veto session.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

With the clock ticking on the state’s stopgap spending bill, legislative leaders met with Gov. Bruce Rauner this week to discuss budget priorities.

After a year-long budget impasse, the General Assembly passed a six-month stopgap spending bill in late June that is set to run out on Dec. 31. A veto session started this week, in which Rauner and the Republicans are expected to negotiate a budget for the rest of the fiscal year with House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and other Democrats.

Rauner met with Madigan, Senate President Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Republican legislative leaders Tuesday. Both Rauner and Madigan described the meeting with amicable terms. After the meeting, however, Madigan announced he was appointing a negotiating team for the House Democrats led by Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago).

Harris and other team members would be responsible for “balancing the budget and adopting a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year,” Madigan said.

Senate Republican leader Rep. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said she was confused by Madigan’s announcement.

“This discussion now about balancing the budget … needs to be at the leaders level,” she said. “There was no agreement that there be another round of negotiating teams.”

Radogno said the legislative leaders — not working groups — needed to make the final decisions.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Rauner said he pushed five key reforms in the meeting. One initiative Rauner said he brought up at the meeting was workers compensation reform.

Rauner and the Republicans introduced a reform bill last year. The state’s current system was “not fair,” he said.

“Workers comp was never designed to treat health issues outside of work. In Illinois we’ve tried to force those in, or let them come in,” he said. “It’s driven up our cost, its increased fraud and abuse, and it’s pushed employers out of the state.”

Rauner said he also brought up term limit reforms during the meeting.

Term limits would help restore trust in the state government, Rauner said. Additionally, Rauner said he believes the increase of lame-duck legislators due to term limits during the yearly veto sessions would enable more “tough votes.”

“We’ve got a reputation for bad government in Illinois,” he said. “They are there to be a public servant for eight or 10 years, then leave.”

Although Rauner is also looking to push property tax relief, unfunded mandates, education funding and pension reform, he said he doesn’t need everything on the list in order to get a budget passed.

Although there was “reluctance” to changes at the meeting, Rauner said they had a “good discussion.”

“Progress is slow, but we’re going to be persistent,” he said.

Madigan urged lawmakers to follow framework used in the past rather than spending time on the initiatives and reforms Rauner is pushing.

“If we all work together, recognize each other’s interests and abilities, we’ll come to a successful agreement,” he said.

Both the state House and Senate are back in session on Nov. 29.

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Twitter: @noracshelly