Last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner declared to reporters that if it wasn’t for House Speaker Michael Madigan the budget impasse would’ve been resolved.

And perhaps if the sky was green, then grass might be blue.

For starters, what the governor said was highly doubtful. It’s not like in the absence of Madigan that Senate President John Cullerton and his liberal Democratic caucus would’ve eagerly gone along with the harshly anti-union aspects of Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” in exchange for a budget deal and tax hike, as the governor is demanding.



Cullerton confirmed that fact just a day after Rauner had made his remarks.

“This is a supermajority of Democrats and a bunch of pro-union Republicans in this state,” Cullerton told reporters. “This isn’t, you know, Oklahoma or Kansas. And so he’s got to understand, he ran for governor of Illinois,” he said of Rauner.

The governor is demanding things that Democrats just won’t ever go along with, like all but eliminating collective bargaining rights for unions at the local government level, killing off the prevailing wage for construction workers and doing away with the mostly “no fault” aspect of the workers’ compensation system.

Mayor Emanuel is more conservative than Cullerton, and he’d like to see some changes to the workers’ comp system, but he has also taken the side of unions in this ideological war as well.


Plus, let’s get real here. There is no “absence” of Mike Madigan. He is, love him or hate him (and, if the polls are right, most people hate him), a fact of Statehouse life.

It’s true that Madigan hasn’t been cooperative during the long overtime legislative session. He even intervened in the Senate to prevent Cullerton from passing a compromise bill on property taxes this month.

Cullerton’s proposal attempted to address one of Gov. Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” demands of a two-year property tax freeze while making sure Chicago schools and other struggling school districts around the state weren’t harmed.

The bill was opposed by the Chicago Teachers Union, which nonetheless called it “well-intentioned.” The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund also opposed the bill because it changed the pension payment “ramp” schedule for the city’s school system. The Republicans, of course, were also opposed, because the governor wants to get rid of most collective bargaining rights for teachers unions as part of his proposal.

For all of those reasons plus one, Cullerton’s measure received 32 “Yes” votes – four short of the three-fifths majority needed during an overtime session.


The “plus one” angle is that Speaker Madigan was also opposed. If you check the roll call, Sen. Martin Sandoval, who is Madigan’s Senator, didn’t vote even though he was in the chamber during the roll call. Sen. Steve Landek, whom Madigan had appointed to the Senate four years ago, voted “Present.”

The Senate Democrats were aware that Madigan was working against the bill, but Senate President Cullerton went ahead with the roll call anyway. Cullerton believes he has the votes to pass the legislation when his chamber returns to town in August.

Look, I won’t excuse any of his actions, but others have found a way to make a deal with Madigan. Heck, even Rod Blagojevich did, and he even did so after he accused the chairman of the Democratic Party of being a “Republican.”

So, enough with the excuses and the eliminationist fantasies. If the governor wants an agreement, then he has to step away from his far right economic agenda and find some practical solutions to this mess or we will never even get to talking about a budget.

Democrats (and a whole lot of Republicans) are simply not going to vote to eviscerate labor unions. Period. This isn’t so much a personality clash with one stubborn House Speaker as it is an ideological war with more than half the state.

Successful governors have always found a way to bridge the oftentimes yawning gaps between the various interests and power centers.

I don’t disagree at all with the governor that we need some economic reforms to spur some much-needed growth. But if this governor was serious about breaking the logjam, he’d find a way to do that in concert with a Democratic super-majority.

Rich Miller also publishesCapitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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