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Springfield session ends, setting stage for summer showdown

SPRINGFIELD — State lawmakers went home on Sunday, putting battles of the legislative session behind them.

But Gov. Bruce Rauner is preparing to wage war.

That is likely why Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, told his members they should be prepared to return Thursday and Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, gave his members a similar speech about returning later in June.

“The House will be in continuous session this summer,” Madigan said on the House floor Sunday afternoon, warning representatives that they could not seek mileage reimbursement or per diem payments and were subject to a 48-hour notice to appear at the Capitol.

The move by the powerful Democrats was clearly aimed to counteract what’s expected to be an advertising onslaught unleashed by Rauner. Rauner has threatened to dip into millions of dollars held in campaign accounts and run negative ads targeting Democratic members if his turnaround agenda wasn’t passed by Sunday.

As lawmakers prepared to leave after failing to both fix a $3 billion budget hole and to adopt reforms, Rauner said his office was preparing contingency plans should state offices and schools shut down.

And the governor had some harsh words for lawmakers.

“A stunningly disappointing General Assembly session this spring, we do not have a balanced budget,” Rauner said from the Capitol on Sunday. “We have an attempt to force major tax hikes on the people of Illinois and we have no significant reforms and no sincere effort that we can tell yet to achieve significant reforms for the people of Illinois.”

Rauner has positioned himself as the change agent needed to push a Democratic-controlled Legislature into action. He described himself as a volunteer, who was in Springfield working for the people, while calling Madigan a “puppet master” interested only in protecting the power structure he’s built over the decades.

On Sunday, Rauner repeated his call for term limits on lawmakers, redistricting reform, a freeze on property taxes as well as changing workers’ compensation laws.But he evaded questions about an impending ad blitz.“We’re not going to talk and speculate about messaging going forward,” Rauner said. “We do need to get our message out with the people.” He then pointed to Madigan and “his allies” having sent mailers to legislative targets following votes this session.Democrats, in turn, say it was Rauner who made his agenda dependent on the passage of a state budget. They pointed out that Rauner’s own budget proposal was at least $2.2 billion out of balance and that it called for deep cuts to services.While the major players all insisted they were willing to sit down and work together, each took turns taking shots at the other.

On Sunday, Cullerton attacked Rauner, charging that he’s spent the last several months recording ads instead of working on the state’s budget.

“He has chosen to hold the budget hostage,” Cullerton declared in a news conference. “He can slash the budget, he has that power. Tell us what he wants to do with the budget.”

Cullerton noted that past tax increases have happened with Republican governors and Democratic-held legislatures.

“That’s what he should be doing instead of having his ad campaign be developed,” Cullerton said. “If you start attacking people, that makes it more difficult to reach an agreement, doesn’t it? … This should not be personal. We’re elected officials. … you sit down and you try to reach compromise. You don’t do it through a continuation of a campaign. He won the campaign, but now he’s got to govern.”

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, on Sunday said the governor has pulled back on his demands for reform items and is now focusing on a couple of items: workers’ compensation reform and a property tax freeze.

“We’re willing to compromise,” Radogno said. “But reform has to be real, it has to be what the taxpayers insisted. They’re talking about being crushed under property taxes. It’s a different dynamic now. I think what we’re seeing is they’re trying to behave in the same old way. … Gov. Rauner does have access to large amounts of money, that is another dynamic we haven’t seen before.”