Madigan still AWOL on RSVP to Rauner, leaders meeting

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Gov. Bruce Rauner talks to reporters in Champaign. Sun-Times Media.

The formal invitations went out. They have settled on a time and a place.

And Gov. Bruce Rauner says he is “very eager to get back to work.”

But can it be a productive meeting if House Speaker Mike Madigan doesn’t show up?

The Southwest Side Democrat still has not responded to Rauner’s request for a meeting Monday, the day before legislators return to Springfield for the fall veto session.

Rauner said he sent out the formal invitations after the election to Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

“Three of the four leaders have confirmed they’d be happy to meet on Monday,” Rauner told reporters Friday in Champaign. “And I believe we’ll have that meeting. And I hope it’s productive.”

The meeting is to be held at 1 p.m. Monday in Springfield.

It would be the first for Rauner and the Democrats after a grueling and expensive legislative campaign cycle, one in which Madigan and Cullerton collectively lost six Democratic seats in the House and Senate.

Topping the agenda for the meeting would likely be a state budget. The state is still operating on a temporary stopgap budget that was approved in July.

The two sides have been at loggerheads on passing a full version because Rauner insists a spending plan must include reforms he says are crucial to making the state competitive, but Democrats contend many of his “reforms” actually will hurt the middle class.

On Friday, Rauner insisted he was willing to compromise, but repeated his standard caveat that any tax increase must be accompanied by reforms.

“Everything can be negotiated. Everything is on the table. There is nothing that I’ve said that absolutely has to happen, other than we’ve got to remember trying to balance a budget purely with a big tax hike won’t solve any of our problems.”

Madigan’s spokesman did not respond to phone messages or emails from the Sun-Times on Thursday or Friday.

Despite Madigan’s refusal to RSVP, the governor said he believes Madigan will attend.

“I hope and believe that he’ll want to attend as well. I think what we’re going to have is a meeting with all of us.”

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