Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday pushed for a four-year property tax freeze while seeking to drive a wedge between Democratic members and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan as they mull a budget-and-tax package.
Also on Friday, Madigan released a letter to the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, dubbing the state’s budgetary mess “Governor Rauner’s impasse,” while listing ways in which he said House Democrats have tried to enact reform measures.
The blame game that’s helped lengthen the budget impasse continued as Rauner — at a press conference in a southwest suburban backyard — accused Madigan of sending in special interest groups “to beat up the Senate Democrats” to “cave in” on the “grand bargain” package.
Rauner’s push came as the Illinois Republican Party released a digital ad featuring the governor touring the state and advocating for property tax relief and against what they called Madigan’s “tax-and-spend agenda.”
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton in March pinned the failure of the grand bargain package on Rauner. But Cullerton helped to clear three budgetary measures with Democratic votes alone on Tuesday, including a revenue bill that hikes the income tax rate.
Republicans and Rauner have said they were close on compromise in negotiations when it comes to workers’ compensation and property tax relief. But Democrats went at it alone in an effort to move the bills to the Illinois House with just days left in the legislative session. House Democrats plan to take up the Senate budget bills in committees on Sunday.
“The speaker’s pressure made the Senate Democrats cave in, and they ended up passing a tax hike with no lasting property tax relief. They ended up doing what the speaker wanted, which is just stick it to taxpayers again. And we cannot have that. That is not acceptable,” Rauner said, adding his administration was close on an agreement on property tax relief, term limits and workers compensation.
Cullerton spokesman John Patterson jabbed back at the governor for his comments.
“I don’t know if the governor realizes it yet, but the Senate balanced and approved the budget he proposed,” Patterson said in a statement. “He has an odd way of saying ‘thank you.’”
Reporters covering the governor’s event in Orland Park were met by a J.B. Pritzker campaign mascot — a pancake-like costume with a clock sewn on top — representing 693 days without a state budget.
Madigan released his letter to the Civic Committee Friday morning. The group last week issued a lengthy report on its budget recommendations.
“I remain committed to working in good faith with the governor to pass a full, responsible budget and address the other major issues facing the state,” Madigan wrote, adding he assigned four members to a negotiating team.
“I hope you will join me in urging the governor to take up House Democrats’ offer and help us end this budget crisis,” the speaker wrote.
Rauner called the letter “intentionally misleading,” and said the speaker refused to meet with him and the Civic Committee as they compiled their budget recommendations.
“This is all political spin,” Rauner said. “The speaker has shown no interest in compromise for more than two years. Zero interest.”
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the speaker met with the Civic Committee in April. Brown said the speaker at the time was trying to defer to the senators, who were working on the grand bargain.
Brown said the governor should look in a mirror and ask why he “wrecked” the grand bargain instead of pinning the blame on the speaker.
“It’s the image he’s trying to paint since November of 2014 — and so far he’s failing, but he’s continuing,” Brown said.
The Commercial Club responded to the speaker’s letter, saying in a statement, “The Civic Committee has provided a comprehensive framework for our state’s governmental leaders to solve our budget crisis. It is now their responsibility to compromise and pass a comprehensive budget package which will move our state forward. The people of Illinois are depending on it.”
The Illinois Senate forged ahead in passing a workers’ compensation bill, again with no Republican support. There were plans to also try to pass a two-year property tax bill, but that was put on hold amid questions about school district funding and about municipalities. Democrats, however, aren’t discussing lengthening the freeze. Rauner says he’ll only approve an income tax hike with a four-year property tax freeze.