House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks during a news conference at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield earlier this month. File Photo. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Madigan: Rauner ad blitz ‘takes us to the extreme’

SHARE Madigan: Rauner ad blitz ‘takes us to the extreme’
SHARE Madigan: Rauner ad blitz ‘takes us to the extreme’

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, on Tuesday called Gov. Bruce Rauner’s new TV ad blitz “extreme” and said a budget deal would come only “if everybody’s reasonable.”

Still, Madigan said he believed the Legislature was making “progress” toward breaking a budget impasse, despite entering the third week after adjournment without a balanced plan.

“That TV ad takes us to the extreme. It takes away from moderation. It’s just like the other non-budget issues,” Madigan told reporters in a Capitol news conference.

“I think we’re making progress,” Madigan added. “I’m working seven days a week on this.”

Madigan’s comments came on the same day that Rauner took the unusual move of launching a more than $825,000 TV ad blitz, financed in part by billionaire businessman Sam Zell through an independent expenditure committee. The ad specifically points the finger at Madigan and accuses legislative members of allowing the Chicago Democrat to control them.

Rauner released the ad in advance of a series of cuts he’s threatened to make across the state if the Democratic-controlled Legislature didn’t accept his proposed reforms. At the end of spring session, Democrats gave Rauner a “spending bill” that was billions of dollars out of balance. Democrats called on Rauner to propose new ways to come up with revenue. Rauner says he’ll =approve a tax increase only if Democrats adopt workers compensation reform and a property tax freeze.

“It’s understandable the speaker would not like the ads because they tell the truth about what he and the legislators he controls are up to in Springfield — protecting the political class at the expense of the middle class,” said Rauner spokesman Lance Trover.

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Madigan insists he’s being reasonable by holding hearings in the House and taking votes on issues that are important to Rauner even though the speaker said he doesn’t think that a budget resolution should be conditioned on those issues.

“In the House, we’re attempting to be responsive to the governor’s interests. That’s why number one, we passed a worker’s compensation bill. We provided four opportunities for Republicans to pass legislation that would freeze property taxes.”

State Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, called the ad “benign.”

“I didn’t think there was anything mean-spirited about it. I thought it was relatively moderate,” Sandack said. “I know the Speaker keeps saying ‘extreme’ but so far as all objective observers will state, the governor has tried to negotiate … the Speaker only wants to talk about one thing: and that’s a tax hike.”

Illinois’ financial stress worsened after state lawmakers allowed a temporary tax hike to expire in January. But Rauner blames Democratic policies for causing long-term harm to the state.

“I’ll accept his argument, that the problem of the budget deficit and the problem of the accumulated debt of the state has been caused over several years. It’s a multi-year problem, this developed. It’s going to require strong action by a lot of people in the government to solve those two problems,” Madigan said. “I think the governor and I would agree: No. 1 problem is the budget deficit.”

“Antagonism’s not going to get us anywhere,” state Sen. Pat McGuire,D-Joliet, said of the TV ad. “I’ve said to audiences at home and I said to colleagues today that I hold out hope that moderate members of the Senate on both sides of the isle will break the log-jam.”

Asked if the ads are helping to do that, McGuire said, “It’s time to stop campaigning and start governing.”

Asked whether Madigan felt his own message was getting out to the public, the speaker responded:“Our encounters with people would say yes,” Madigan said.

What types of encounters?

“People that I rode with in the elevator this morning, who said they didn’t quite understand why a TV commercial would be run in the middle of a legislative session, when we’re several months after an election and many, many more months before the next election.”

Madigan said he did not envision Democrats cutting their own TV ads. He did concede that Democrats had sent out political mail pieces targeting Republican lawmakers. “We wouldn’t consider the mailers extreme, they’re factual,” Madigan said. “We’re not going to do any TV ads, I can tell you that.”

“I’m prepared to do my duty and fulfill my obligation. I know from prior experiences, if people are reasonable you can solve the problem,” Madigan said. “I think the governor is functioning in the extreme. His advocacy on non-budget issues … that’s functioning in the extreme.”

The governor’s office seemed taken aback by Madigan’s contention that he’s achieved some progress.

“It’s difficult to understand how Speaker Madigan and the legislators he controls can double the size of Illinois’ budget deficit to $4 billion and call that ‘progress,’ ” a Rauner spokeswoman said. “It’s this type of thinking that’s caused Illinois’ fiscal crisis and why Governor Rauner will continue to fight for reforms that help the middle class and working families.”

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