Madigan says Dems need his ‘strong leadership’ as he makes case to hold speaker post

Madigan said he’s “prepared” to vote for an income tax rate increase during a Saturday morning candidate forum hosted by the House Black Caucus. Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, also made her case for getting the speaker’s gavel.

SHARE Madigan says Dems need his ‘strong leadership’ as he makes case to hold speaker post
Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan,  seen at the University Club of Chicago in 2015, was often seen as an impediment to reform during his record tenure in Springfield. But, in the first session without him, legislators still backed away from significantly toughening governmental ethics laws.

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, pictured at the University Club of Chicago in 2015.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times file

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said Saturday he’s prepared to vote for an increase in the state’s income tax rate and said he’s working with “building blocks” to get to 60 votes in his fight to secure another term in the leadership post he’s held for nearly four decades.

“My pledge to the caucus, on state finances and also on redistricting, is to provide the same type of strong leadership that I provided to our caucus when we were fighting against Gov. [Bruce] Rauner,” Madigan said while making his case before the House Black Caucus to remain speaker.

“Most of us who were there for the Rauner years know how bad it was, how difficult it was,” Madigan said. “The strong leadership I provided against the Rauner program is the same leadership that I pledge to provide to the caucus on state finances and on redistricting.”

A showing of that strong leadership may come if Gov. J.B. Pritzker asks the legislature to raise the state’s flat income-tax rate, which Madigan said is “very possible,” according to a recording of the closed candidate forum reviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I’m prepared to vote for that, presuming it’s the governor’s request,” Madigan said.

He acknowledged that could be a “very difficult issue for the caucus” as it tries to maintain services — and insisted a strong leader is needed to persuade others to vote for an increase.

The state projects a nearly $4 billion budget deficit for 2021, and the state’s budget office also projects deficits ranging from $4.8 billion in fiscal year 2022 to $4.2 billion by fiscal year 2026.

Madigan billed himself as the sole person able to tackle that issue, as well as the upcoming redistricting effort.

Also making her case to the Black Caucus was Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, who announced her bid for the speaker position in October.

Caucus members asked questions on topics ranging from the coronavirus and its effect on the Black community to what happens if Madigan — and or any other potential challengers — aren’t able to get the necessary 60 votes.

Madigan said he’s “attempting to... work with building blocks” to get to the votes needed for another term.

“My desire, my request, is to get the endorsement of the Black Caucus and then, from that, move on to build toward 60, but it’s a persuasion process,” Madigan said.

State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego.

Illinois state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, Democrat, 84th District

Rich Hein / Sun-Times file

Kifowit said the uncertainty around who will be the next speaker is an opportunity to work together to “get things going in the right direction.”

“I know that change can be scary,” Kifowit said. “But, together — working together — I think we can make good change... and help people.”

Members questioned her on her process for redistricting, and her experience on the matter, as well as whether or not she would return money she’s received from the state’s Democratic Party in her runs for office now that she’s “stepping out,” one member asked, explaining that members of the caucus don’t receive the same amount of support from the state party.

“I do believe in full caucus support... I, as speaker, will ensure that everybody has a minimum of $100,000 in their campaign account,” Kifowit said. “I think that the support has been a bit uneven, and we need to make sure that members are supported in the capacity that they need to be supported.”

Madigan, 78, has not been charged with any crime and denies any wrongdoing, but a series of explosive federal court filings have outlined an alleged bribery scheme in which ComEd is accused of sending $1.3 million to Madigan’s associates for doing little or no work for the utility to curry favor with him.

Madigan reiterated his common line of defense Saturday: “I think it’s OK to recommend people for jobs.”

Nineteen members, including one from the chamber’s Democratic leadership, have said they won’t vote for Madigan for another term as speaker in light of information in that July filing and another in November that indicted one of his closest confidants and three others.

Only one member of the 22 member House Black Caucus — Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford — has said he won’t vote for Madigan.

If everyone in that bloc holds to their position, the speaker is six votes short of keeping the position he’s held for all but two years since 1983.

The list of names of other Democratic state reps who may be interested in the position include: Majority Leader Greg Harris of Chicago, Deputy Majority Leader Jehan Gordon-Booth of Peoria, Assistant Majority Leaders Kelly Burke of Evergreen Park, William Davis of Homewood and Jay Hoffman of Swansea, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside, and Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago.

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