SPRINGFIELD — Chicago Democrat Michael Madigan won another term as speaker of the state House on Wednesday, setting the stage to become the nation’s longest serving state House speaker for at least the last century.
Madigan began his latest term expressing a wish to end the partisan bickering that has left the state without a budget. And he outlined his own economic plan. For nearly two years, the speaker has clashed with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s preferred political and economic reforms, saying he’d prefer to deal with those outside of a budget.
“Let me suggest that as we move forward let us work to end the acrimony and find the best in each other,” Madigan said after he was sworn in.
Madigan, 74, took the oath as his wife Shirley, daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel looked on during the inaugural ceremony at Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois Springfield.
The powerful Southwest Side Democrat has held the reins in the state House for much of the past 34 years, serving as speaker for all but two years since 1983. He was first elected to the House in 1971.
Assuming he completes this two-year term, Madigan will have spent 34 years total as speaker, eclipsing the 33-year record set by South Carolina’s Solomon Blatt, who served from 1937-1946 and 1951-1973, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
Madigan’s tenure easily dwarfs that of any current speaker. Next in line is Frank Chopp of Washington, who has served 18 years, according to the organization’s research.
Madigan won the top House post with the votes of 66 Democrats.
The only Democrat who did not vote for Madigan was Scott Drury of Highwood, who voted present. Drury had explored a run for speaker himself, but said in a statement “it became clear that for myriad reasons a majority of the General Assembly is not ready for a new Speaker.”
Drury said ultimately “the vote was not about” Madigan.
“Illinois is in a free-fall into the abyss,” he said. “My action today should give hope to the hopeless that a new day is on the horizon.”
Drury added: “I have been asked if I fear repercussions. With history as a guide, the answer is yes.”
In his speech, Madigan called the last two years “extremely difficult.”
“I think we can all agree that we’d all like to solve the Illinois government budget deficit problem because a solution will help grow the Illinois economy, which will increase our tax receipts, which will enable us to better respond to the needs of the people of Illinois,” Madigan said.
He spoke of the need for growth in Illinois’ economy and of his concern for businesses taking tax incentives and then moving out of the country. He implored the audience to respond to two questions: Should Illinois outlaw incentives for companies that shift American jobs out of the country? Should Illinois only invest tax money in companies that invest in Illinois? Many shouted “yes.”
Without naming the governor or Republican leaders, Madigan said the state should lower its rate on the Illinois corporate income tax by 50 percent “rather than lowering the standard of living by changes in areas like workers’ compensation, collective bargaining and prevailing wage.”
Prior to the leadership vote, Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora, stood up to address fellow members, announcing her distaste for “backroom deals,” private working groups and “secret” committee meetings. She pleaded for transparency, while saying she still would vote for Madigan for speaker.
Kifowit said she told the speaker beforehand that she planned to speak.
“I personally am disgusted we do not have a budget for two years,” Kifowit said. She said all leaders “have to do better.”
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin was once again voted House minority leader. He too spoke of the urgent need to end the impasse.
“To break the impasse, both sides must respect each other’s priorities. That means negotiate, compromise,” Durkin said. “That is what adults do at times of disagreements.”
He urged an end to “gotcha” votes — used to get members on the record for voting for measures to later use them in campaign ads and literature, he said.
“This tactic is unworthy of our chamber and of our oath of office,” Durkin said. “That is not active participation in state government.”
Durkin said Republican members will work with Democrats on paying down the backlog of bills, reducing unemployment, reforming the state’s pension system and enacting a balanced budget.
And as Emanuel looked on from the balcony, Durkin also spoke of his anger over Chicago’s gun violence epidemic.
“This must come to an end. We must take the streets back from those cowardly thugs who have destroyed neighborhoods and families,” Durkin said. “And this must be done with federal, state and local collaboration. We cannot go through another summer like we witnessed in the past few years.”
Durkin said he’d work with the governor and Emanuel to “do everything we can to make our streets safer.”
In an op-ed published Wednesday, Madigan said House Democrats will propose their own “agenda” with “aggressive economic reforms” that don’t hurt the middle class. That includes a reinstatement of the EDGE tax credit for businesses to create jobs and increase the earned income tax credit. And it would also include an increase in the minimum wage and a tax on millionaires — which Madigan has touted for years — to fund schools.
In the wide-ranging piece, published in the State Journal-Register, Madigan urged an end to the blame game during the budget impasse and outlined his economic plan.
Responding to Madigan’s proposal, Rauner said it shows both Democratic leaders “finally agree that we must have a balanced budget with economic changes to increase our competitiveness to grow jobs.”
“That’s an important positive step,” Rauner said in a statement. “Now let’s come together on a bipartisan basis to ensure all proposals truly take the state in a better direction.”
It’s unclear whether Madigan’s “agenda” coincides with a Senate budget package negotiated between Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno. That package includes a budget spending plan and measures covering gaming, revenue, local government consolidation, minimum wage, bill backpay effort and procurement reform.
Thirteen “grand bargain” budget bills were filed in the Senate after the inauguration — adding a property tax freeze, education funding, workers’ compensation, pension parity and a bill to give municipalities greater flexibility to move money within their accounts — to the list. And the Senate on Wednesday enacted a rule change shortly after inauguration that places term limits on Senate leaders.
After being re-elected by members to his post, Cullerton said the Senate is ready to offer “solutions and leadership.”
“Frankly I think the state’s been shaken up enough. Let’s make Illinois great again,” Cullerton said. “I think we’ve made it clear that the Senate’s not afraid to take tough votes to solve problems and move this state forward.”
“So let’s get to it,” he said.
Radogno was sworn in for her fifth term as Senate GOP Leader. The Lemont Republican said “Senate Republicans will remain a unified voice for the families of Illinois.”
She spoke of the support for the budget package, which includes revenue and reforms: “We need to re-balance government with the needs of those paying the bills.”
Senate leaders on Monday said the hope is to get that package of bills passed by Feb. 1. That package includes some of Rauner’s preferred reforms — which are at the heart of Madigan and Rauner’s now two-year feud.
Speaking at the Senate inauguration, Rauner thanked Cullerton for his “extraordinary leadership.” He also thanked senators for “getting hit and attacked, suffering, but in there working, in there battling.”
“We all need to battle for what we firmly believe is right but I hope the good Lord grants us the wisdom to find common ground, to listen and respect to the other ideas, to come to a solution for a better future,” Rauner said.