Rauner, leaders ‘no closer’ to deal as shutdown looms

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Gov. Bruce Rauner, center, reaches to shake the hand of Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, left, after delivering his State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield in February. (AP File Photo/Seth Perlman)

With the state just one day away from shutting down its services, legislative leaders — including Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan — failed to reach a compromise on Monday with Gov. Bruce Rauner over an ongoing budget impasse.

“We’re no closer today than we were a month ago on negotiating a budget,”House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, told the Chicago Sun-Times following a Monday meeting between the four legislative leaders and Rauner.“Nothing’s changed. We are looking for reform, Democrats are looking for revenue.”

WORTH IT: Rauner says government shutdown worth the pain if it forces change

Rauner last week vetoed the bulk of a budget sent to him by Democrats, calling it $4 billion out of balance. Rauner, a Republican, had offered a budget in February that had been criticized as more than $2.2 billion out of balance. But he has said he would only sign off on new taxes if Democrats agreed to his demands for changes in the law that he says would make Illinois more friendly to business. Once the new fiscal year begins on July 1, most government services will not be funded.

The meeting at the state Capitol in Springfield on Monday was initially seen as promising because Madigan, who has a powerful grip on his chamber’s supermajority, showed up.Madigan, who Rauner has targeted in recent negative TV ads, had given the governor the cold shoulder recently, having been a no-show at recent closed-door meetings Rauner had called.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown disputed that characterization, contending thatthere has been “no meeting set that the Speaker has missed.”

“I think they tried to meet last minute last week, but schedules didnot sync,” Brown said.

Government insiders, including previous governors, had advised Rauner that meeting with the legislative leaders in private was the best chance toward moving toward a compromise. Madigan has called Rauner “extreme” and said the state’s budget should be resolved separate from Rauner’s policy demands.

Democrats are placing the blame for a looming shutdown on the governor, saying he had options — including using his amendatory veto power — to keep some state services operating. They are gearing up for a two-day hearing in which they plan to showcase the effects of a government shutdown.

At the meeting on Monday, Rauner continued to ask Democrats to advance his so-called turnaround agenda in order to avoid a budget impasse. Earlier in the day, Rauner sent an email to state employees saying that Democrats had offered no compromises on the governor’s turnaround agenda items. Rauner has said he must have those pro-business, anti-union changes in law in order to move forward with a budget.

“We’ve offered other solutions that he’s rejected because he wants those pieces of the agenda that we think are harmful,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman to Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. “As a result, we are no closer to a resolution. … He chose to move toward a shutdown through an outright veto.”

Rauner on Monday sent state employees a memo attempting to reassure them that he would do everything he could to fund paychecks on time — even if no budget was in place by the July 1 deadline.

Rauner even vowed to join forces with a group whom he had demonized for much of the last several months; Rauner said he would join unions in fighting for their state paychecks during a shutdown.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure you don’t miss a single payroll,” Rauner said in the memo. Rauner also vowed that “most state services will continue.”

But Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office quickly threw cold water on that idea. In a statement on Monday, the office said with no budget in place state payroll was an uncertainty because state laws “severely constrain the State’s authority to make payments to fund operations and services.” The office cited a 1991 appellate decision saying there could be no paychecks without a budget. And a 2007 court challenge during a budget impasse resulted in the state only allowed to pay out in limited circumstances.

“While there are limited payments that the Comptroller is authorized to make in the absence of a budget, Illinois law is clear that the State cannot continue to fund all government operations and services in the absence of a budget passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor,” Madigan’s office said in a statement.

While legislative leaders were at the state Capitol on Monday, the full General Assembly wasn’t scheduled to return until Tuesday, when Democrats who control the House were expected to delve into the optics of a shutdown. A Committee of the Whole was preparing to ask agency leaders how they planned to operate in a shutdown, what services would be funded and which ones wouldn’t.

“We’re not going to allow our governor to hold middle class families hostage over what we think are political issues,” said state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie. “To hold upthe budget over things that don’t have anything to do with the budget,simply is not a responsible way to move the ball forward in our state.”

A spokeswoman for Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, declined to comment. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Speaker Madigan’s spokesman Brown said the House on Tuesday will “try to get a better understanding of what these agenciesare preparing to do in a shutdown situation and how middle class families will be able to cope with that.”

AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director President Roberta Lynch issued a statement saying the union was prepared to take legal action to ensure members were paid for their work.

“The current situation can’t go on indefinitely,” Lynch said in a statement. “We urge the governor to stop demanding that the General Assembly approve his unrelated agenda items that would harm the middle class as a precondition to budget talks, and instead work with lawmakers to fairly fund state government and the important services it provides.”

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