Former Gov. George Ryan says state budget stalemate needs to end quickly. | AP

Sneed: Former Gov. Ryan urges quick resolution to budget mess

SHARE Sneed: Former Gov. Ryan urges quick resolution to budget mess
SHARE Sneed: Former Gov. Ryan urges quick resolution to budget mess

Follow @sneedlingsThe Ryan report . . .

He is hesitant to say anything, feels it’s not his job to give advice.

But former Republican Gov. George Ryan, who had a reputation for being an effective governor and a clever negotiator, is still scratching his head over the state’s budget nightmare.

“The state is in a hell of a shape,” he told Sneed in an exclusive interview Friday.

“It’s terrible. It’s not getting any better. But look, it’s not my place to tell people what to do,” he said. “And my spending time in federal prison pretty much ensures a lot of people wouldn’t listen to what I have to say anyway,” added Ryan, who was imprisoned for six years on political corruption charges until his release in 2013.

“But something’s got to give. It’s like a marriage. Someone has to take the leadership spot,” he added.

“The governor is the top guy. He is the leader. House Speaker Mike Madigan is not. The governor has to make things happen. If he doesn’t get everything he wants, he’s got to figure out how much he can get. To get something done. He’s got to take the wheel. He’s got to have a plan. It’s like everything in life.”

“It seems to me what you’ve got today are two guys very set in their ways and have programs that they just won’t give up on. Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to destroy the unions, and it’s Madigan’s lifeblood. Madigan has to save the unions; otherwise, he doesn’t survive. And it’s just as simple as that.

“So I don’t know how they ever come to an agreement until you sit down and figure it out, be flexible and understand what the needs of everybody are that you are working with.”


Follow @sneedlingsSneed: “So what would you suggest Rauner and Madigan do?”

Ryan: “I wouldn’t suggest anything to those guys.”

Sneed: “All right. So how would you do it?”

Ryan: “First of all, you’ve got to remember. When I got to be governor I’d been in the house for 10 years. I had been the lieutenant governor and secretary of state. I had a lot time to work with Mike Madigan and Democrats.

“Rauner came right in out of the cold and ya know, he didn’t have any experience. I’m not being critical. I am just saying that’s the way it happened. But . . . my association was one that had been built over years.”

Sneed: “So what would you do now?”

Ryan: “Well, I’m not sure. It’s a matter of attitudes. They both have to change their attitudes and sit down and say ‘let’s work this out the best we can.’ I’ll give you some of what you want and you give me some of what I want. I would work with Rauner and Madigan about being reasonable about what has to be done.”

Sneed: “How did you work it with Mayor Daley, who was a political powerhouse and fiscal engine? How did you guys do it?”

Ryan: “Well, he [Daley] called me every once in a while and asked me if I could help him with something and I did. I said ‘sure.’ I remember when I did the Illinois First program and he was the first guy I called. It was the biggest public works project in the history of the state at the time. Illinois First. We built schools and roads. We built highways and bridges. It was a $12 billion program. But I couldn’t pass it without the Democrats, Madigan and everybody.

“Madigan and the mayor weren’t getting along too good at that time, and I needed them both. I just called the mayor and said I got a program I want you to see, and he came over to my office and we sat down with his staff and my staff and we said ‘here it is, what do you think?’ And he said, ‘I’m in.’

Sneed: What else worked?

Ryan: “Hey, I had to work with former Senate President Pate Philip, who was my worst nightmare, but I would have leadership meetings when I was governor with all of those people, at least once a week. I would have them come to my office, and every morning when I got up, I said here’s our agenda. Here’s what we are going to do today. Here’s what I would like to get done. I would schmooze them. But like I said, I had 20 years of experience of dealing with them and working with them before I got to be governor.

“I also used the mansion a lot. I mean, the mansion was a great tool to bring guys over for dinner. It was kind of one of those things that everyone liked to do. Come on over and have dinner. You make friends with the people who you thought maybe weren’t your friends.”

Sneed: “Any ideas on resolving the budget nightmare?”

Ryan: “I got a couple thoughts about the budget, but I don’t know if any of it is legal or not.”

• “First off, the biggest problem we got with the budget right now is the interest they are paying on the debt. If I were the governor, I think I would call in the pension board and I’d say we are never going to be able to pay the full debt back, so let’s eliminate half the debt right now and write it off.

“If that’s not constitutional, it might be worth changing the constitution. That would dramatically reduce the amount of interest that they’re paying. The bond ratings would go up and the interest would go down.”

• “Second: The other thing involves the vendors, who are owed billions. I would call those service vendors in — not those who have products — and tell them we are going to pay you 60 cents on the dollar, there is no way we can get out of this mess and you gotta help us. They’d have to take their lumps, but still be back to do business with the state.

• The bottom line: Quoth Ryan: “I wish them well in resolving this very serious problem . . . and it’s imperative they do it soon!”

Boo Hoo ’em . . .

Patti Blagojevich, the wife of imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, was spotted chatting with former Gov. George Ryan at the jam-packed Italian American Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday night honoring boxing king Evander Holyfield.

“She [Patti] came up to me and introduced herself, and we both talked about how we felt her husband got a raw deal,” Ryan said.

“She felt President Obama didn’t do anything and wondered and was hoping Trump might be of some help,” he added.

“I said, ‘Well you never know.’ ”


J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire businessman eyeing a bid to unseat Gov. Rauner, has placed more than a foot in the gubernatorial ring.

• To wit: Sneed has learned the venture capitalist, who could easily fund his own campaign and was a major supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, has lined up Jonathan Jackson, son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, as a team adviser helping bring in young professional support in the African-American community — and Teresa Reyes, who worked for former Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez, for outreach in the Latino community.

The road Rauner . . .

Gov. Rauner, one of the state’s richest men, claims he loves living in Springfield, where he has been able to become a “road warrior” on his Harley motorcycle; being able to drive to nearby Petersburg to “drink the best beer in the world;” and delights in his ability downstate to occasionally go bird hunting in the morning and bass fishing in the evening.

Shoe ’em . . . 

Holy moly Holyfield!

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and boxing champ Evander Holyfield may bob and weave in different rings, but they also share something else in common.


On Wednesday afternoon, Holyfield met with the mayor in his private office at City Hall for more than 30 minutes sharing laughs, stories and the fact they’ve both taken ballet lessons.

Holyfield told Emanuel ballet was the most difficult part of his boxing training.

Sneedlings . . .

I spy: Boxing great Evander Holyfield spotted at La Scarola on Wednesday. . . . Former Hawks player Jeremy Roenick dining at Gibsons last weekend. . . . Saturday’s birthdays: John Travolta, 63; Vanna White, 60, and Dr. Dre, 52. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Seal, 54; Smokey Robinson, 77, and Haylie Duff, 32.

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