Madigan calls Rauner ‘disingenuous’ for Thompson Center sale barb

SHARE Madigan calls Rauner ‘disingenuous’ for Thompson Center sale barb

Gov. Bruce Rauner announcing plans to sell the Thompson Center in 2015. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

House Speaker Michael Madigan sent a letter to Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday, calling it “disingenuous” and “beneath” the governor’s office to blame the speaker for holding up the sale of the Thompson Center.

The letter comes a day after Rauner accused his Democratic nemesis of putting the brakes on the Thompson sale and a plan to put a toll lane on the Stevenson Expressway.

While Rauner has publicly pointed the finger at the speaker in recent weeks, Madigan has been out of the public spotlight — instead issuing statements to the media.

The governor has been pushing for a sale of the Thompson Center since he took office, and putting it on the block appeared to be a rare point of agreement between the two adversaries.

But in the letter, Madigan writes that his aides met with staff from the Illinois Department of Central Management Services on Monday about the sale of the building — with both staffs determining legislation proposed by Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin “inadvertently” interfered with the zoning authority of the city of Chicago. Madigan writes that Rauner’s staff admitted legislation isn’t ready to move forward.

“Around the same time as this productive meeting, you stated publicly that I have held up the sale of the Thompson Center and that reporters should ask me why I’ve been blocking progress on this part of your agenda,” Madigan writes. “With all due respect, I believe it is disingenuous of you and beneath your office to make such false statements to the media when you know or should have known that I have pledged my cooperation, that our staffs are working together on this initiative, and that we are working toward the same goal with your administration in good faith.”

The governor’s office characterized the letter as more of the same from Madigan.

“Speaker Madigan and his majority have had two years to do anything productive for the people of Illinois, but instead he’s held up every proposal to create jobs, provide property tax relief, balance the budget and improve education,” Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said Tuesday.

“Two years of holding up the people of Illinois — and now just more excuses and distractions to hold up something as simple as selling the Thompson Center. As usual, positive changes in government take place when the governor can make things happen on his own — and change hits a brick wall whenever the speaker has the ability to block it.”

Rauner on Monday accused Madigan of holding up the sale of the Thompson Center at a news conference in McCook, while also saying the speaker is blocking his proposed plan for a managed lane on the Stevenson Expressway. The speaker on Monday issued a statement that he’s concerned about private investors being involved in the Stevenson project, while also taking a dig at Rauner.

“Our concern with private investors being involved in a toll lane is that, once again, it seems as though Governor Rauner is more interested in helping his wealthy friends,” Madigan said.

“Have you ever read baloney before?” Rauner said when asked about the speaker’s response on Monday.

Madigan writes in the letter that he’ll continue to work with CMS on issues related to the CTA station, as well as zoning issues, adding “it is these discussions that have led to the stalling of the legislation, not my actions or the actions of the House.”

“Despite your ability to provide an accurate account of the facts or acknowledge my public and private comments, my staff will continue working cooperatively with your staff and CMS to develop a plan to maximize the ability of the state to sell the property, with a goal of passing legislation no later than May 31st,” Madigan wrote.

Durkin on Tuesday told reporters Madigan’s version was “news” to him and that CMS had never told him there were issues with his legislation. He called Madigan’s criticism “unfortunate” and “political.”

“It’s more politically driven. It has nothing to do with substance,” Durkin said. “These are good bills. This is about taking this building and putting it back on the property tax rolls, which is going to help the city of Chicago and everybody else.”

In announcing his intention to sell the Thompson Center in February, Rauner estimated a private development might put “$40 million, $50 million, maybe more” into the city’s coffers, and the site could be sold for as much as $220 million.

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