State Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, speaks during a press conference with House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, outside Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office Tuesday, May 31, 2016, in Springfield, Ill. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Brown: Tricks or treats likely before a solution to budget mess

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SPRINGFIELD — Even before the May 31 adjournment deadline for the Illinois Legislature passed unproductively Tuesday, it became evident the new date to watch isNov. 8.

That’s Election Day, when the battle for control in Springfield will be put to the test in a handful of legislative contests across the state.

Until one side or the other demonstrates at the ballot box that the voters are on its side, neither Gov. Bruce Rauner nor House Speaker Mike Madigan appears to have any intention of yielding.

Maybe not even then.

Heaven help the social service agencies caught in the middle of their power struggle, or worse, the clients who rely on those services.

Many will not survive until November.

Also left in the lurch are Illinois schoolchildren, with no funding mechanism in place to deliver state education aid that would insure classrooms open in the fall.


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I can’t discount the possibility that enough pressure will build this summer to force a short-term fix, but between Rauner’s “persistence” and Madigan’s stubbornness, don’t get your hopes up for anything more.

Although the session dragged on into the night, Rauner officially threw in the towel at5 p.m., telling reporters the legislative session had been a “stunning failure.”

Not surprisingly, Rauner put all the blame on Madigan and the Democrats who follow the speaker’s lead, conveniently overlooking his own role in the continued debacle.

Asked if he took any responsibility, Rauner said “absolutely,” before deflecting it again.

The General Assembly’s final day played out as we’ve become accustomed all the other days — with each side positioning itself to blame the other side for their collective failure.

Forget anything you might read about which side wanted to do a temporary budget or a stand alone budget or an unbalanced budget or an education-only budget.

It all still boiled down to what you’ve been hearing for the last year and a half.

Rauner knows the state needs a tax increase to pay the cost of operating the government, but he won’t support one until Democrats agree to adopt some of his pro-business “reforms.”

With Madigan in the lead, Democrats continue to seek total capitulation from the governor and refuse to make the first move on coming up with the tax hike necessary to fund government.

The blame game is so bad that even Senate Democrats looked for a way to lay off some of the blame on Madigan in hopes of staking some claim to independence. In the end, though, he left them no maneuvering room.

Has anything changed in the 18 months since this battle started?

More legislators are fed up.

Rauner keeps looking for rank-and-file Democrats to break with Madigan as the situation gets worse, and indeed, many chafe under his leadership. But they don’t like Rauner either.

The biggest breakthrough this week came when a handful of Senate and House Republicans caught the governor off guard by siding with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democrats to override Rauner’s veto of the city’s police pension funding overhaul.

But there’s no indication they’re ready to make a habit of it.

Rauner claims Senate President John Cullerton told him in private that Democrats won’t act on the governor’s proposed reforms or make a “grand bargain” on the budget until after the election.

How convenient that the governor’s opponents always tell him in private what he wants to hear — and that he then breaks their confidence by sharing it with the world.

The scary part about the election being the new deadline is that it could easily be a split decision.

Cullerton’s Democrats are mathematically assured of keeping control of that chamber, but expect to be playing defense with their supermajority against a Rauner onslaught.

Madigan, in contrast, actually is said to believe he can pick up seats and add to his margin of control in the House.

At some point, it has to end. Doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?

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