Brown: A glimmer of light in dark of Springfield night

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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. File Photo. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP)

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There’s a hangover effect to the end of any legislative session, even for those who don’t go to the after parties.

What? It never occurred to you state legislators go out drinking together after bad mouthing each other all day for weeks on end? Sure, they do.

In the morning, after heads clear, the prior day’s legislative actions often come into better focus than in the late-night rush to the finish.

That’s not working for me today, and I went straight to bed.

Senate President John Cullerton woke up Wednesday still believing there is room for optimism. I failed to ask if he’d stopped for a drink, but must consider the possibility either way that he is the one thinking clearly.


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Cullerton believes there is a framework for a temporary budget solution in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s surprise offer Tuesday to accept a stopgap budget measure that would allow schools to open on time and keep state government functioning — including universities and social services — through January.

Most important, Cullerton pointed out, Rauner did not condition this temporary budget on any of his Turnaround Agenda items, essentially postponing that fight until after the election.

Being in a pessimistic frame of mind after watching another legislative session end in failure, I hadn’t really considered taking Rauner’s proposal seriously.

The governor’s proposal came on the last day of the legislative session, only days after Rauner had rejected any stopgap solution, and didn’t do enough to help Chicago schools to make it worthwhile for city Democrats. Plus, Rauner’s team rolled out the proposal more in the manner of a political face-saver, leaking it first to the news media, than as a serious attempt to strike a deal.

Cullerton and House Speaker Mike Madigan gave no indication they believed Rauner was serious.

Rather than grab the offer and run with it immediately in Tuesday’s closing hours, they said they’d get right on it — just not that day.

But if Cullerton is correct that Rauner’s offer is a genuine starting point for a legitimate negotiation, then that should be recognized, and maybe our political leaders really could work out a deal in the next few weeks that could stop the bleeding for now.

On Wednesday, Rauner said his offer is still on the table, even as he embarked on a two-day campaign style tour by slamming Madigan and Cullerton and the “Chicago machine” to audiences in southern Illinois as he tried to make sure Democrats take the blame for the budget standoff.

I still admit to being a little baffled as to how Rauner will walk back all his Chicago bashing when he finally is ready to strike a deal on the tax increases that he admits are necessary.

But he’s become a savvy enough politician that I’m sure he’ll think of something.

Unlike many legislative sessions where the outcome is uncertain until the finish, it was obvious early Tuesday that this one would end in failure on the budget.

Yet the night still produced a surprise, when Senate Democrats decided they were mad as hell — at Madigan, not Rauner — and not going to take it any more.

Tired of following Madigan’s political lead, this time over a House approved budget that had drawn harsh criticism for proposing to spend $7 billion more than the state expects to take in without a tax increase, they revolted. They smashed the House plan and crafted an education-only budget of their own, which the House rejected by even larger margins.

The intra-party split left the Democrats looking even more inept than usual, although in the end, it didn’t make much difference. Rauner would have vetoed either budget anyway.

Don’t expect Senate Democrats to start looking more kindly on Rauner, and don’t expect Madigan to start caring what Senate Democrats want.

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