President Barack Obama and Republican President-elect Donald Trump can sit down and talk after the election, but can Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan?
Rauner on Thursday invited the four top legislative leaders to a meeting on Monday ahead of the first veto session — but still no word on whether Madigan will show up. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown hadn’t returned calls for comment on Thursday.
A spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said “schedules were being checked” to see if Cullerton could attend.
The meeting between the Republican governor and the leaders would be the first after a grueling and expensive legislative campaign cycle, one in which Madigan and Cullerton collectively lost six Democratic seats in the House and Senate.
In what seemed like an endless campaign, Republicans painted Madigan as the architect of the state’s problems in ominous TV ads. Democrats did the same, working hard to try to link Rauner to Donald Trump.
At issue since Rauner took office is that he will only approve a spending plan with items from his Turnaround Agenda, which includes changes in workers compensation reform, limits on collective bargaining and term limits. He has said repeatedly that he won’t accept budget cuts and tax hikes without a plan to grow the state’s economy.
Madigan continues to resist Rauner’s reforms, saying he is trying to protect the middle class.
It’s unclear what the shift in the Illinois General Assembly will do for much-needed plans to enact a full-year budget and approve a pension reform bill by the end of the year. The state is still operating on a temporary stopgap budget that was approved in July.
Legislators have scheduled fall veto sessions for next Tuesday through Thursday and Nov. 29, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
The governor’s office confirmed Rauner sent out his request on Thursday, asking the leaders to a meeting at their convenience, either in Chicago or Springfield.
Rauner issued a statement on Wednesday urging unity for the state, and to leave the divisive election behind.
“Let’s come together and focus on the future and improving the quality of life for every family in our state,” Rauner said in the statement. “The people of Illinois deserve prompt, bi-partisan action to solve problems and get good things done – to make Illinois more competitive so we can be more compassionate – to enact truly balanced budgets along with reforms that grow more jobs and protect taxpayers.”
Despite the legislative losses, Madigan, indicated in the hours after the election that he’s still ready to put up a fight.
“Democrats value the voters’ trust and we will continue to protect the middle class and those who don’t have access to billionaires and lobbyists,” Madigan said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Cullerton was to the point, saying the “numbers on each side of the aisle may change but our problems haven’t.”
“The sooner everyone can set aside politics and focus on policy, the better,” Cullerton said in a statement Wednesday, adding he’s optimistic that progress can continue.
Republican legislative leaders on Thursday confirmed their attendance at the leaders meeting, saying it will be a good way to shift the focus back to the issues Illinois faces.
Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said the meeting will be a “prime opportunity to jumpstart our collaborative process.”
“The time is now to come together to address the serious issues facing Illinois with comprehensive solutions,” Radogno said in a statement. “I look forward to joining the Governor and my colleagues on Monday.”
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin urged leaders to come together with an “open mind.”
“With the election behind us, it is time we get back to work fixing Illinois. I am absolutely ready and willing to meet on Monday to restart negotiations on a balanced budget solution and reforms,” Durkin said in a statement. “The voters of Illinois sent us to Springfield to solve problems, they demand cooperation and compromise. We can get the job done if both parties agree to keep an open mind, and return to the table.”