For more than a week now, Gov. Bruce Rauner has been roundly viewed as the victor after a major Springfield showdown with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Madigan, D-Chicago, who carefully chooses his words when he speaks publicly, had vowed he’d have the 71 votes needed to override the governor’s veto of a pro-union bill that allowed arbitration in ongoing negotiation talks with the AFSCME union.
Madigan rarely predicts a political victory if he isn’t certain of it.
But he lost. He lost after a much-publicized build-up over who really holds the upper hand in Springfield. He lost after Rauner and his aides put on a full-court press, including working Democrats to vote against an override.
When the vote came, despite Madigan’s long-held reputation of having tight-fisted control over his members, he fell three votes short of an override.
One Democrat, Scott Drury, voted against the bill. State Rep. Jack Franks, often a wild card on controversial issues, voted “present.” And, most famously now, a third, state Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, was out of town at the time of the vote.
This is all seen as a possible sign of a new era in Springfield.
But even as Rauner revels in his victory, he’s faced with a new challenge.
The Democrats’ failure to override undermines an argument Rauner has made since he first launched his gubernatorial campaign and again as recently as last week: that Madigan controls all his members.
A week after Madigan’s major loss in Springfield, Rauner was in Chicago putting the blame for the ongoing budget stalemate on Democrats’ shoulders.
“If you want to refuse any structural reform, then you’ve got to just go ahead and do your budget and do your tax hike,” Rauner said. “You gotta choose — but it’s going to be your tax hike. You want me to raise taxes, I’ll do it. But I’m gonna do it with reforms. You don’t want any reforms with it, you do the tax hike, you’ve got a supermajority.”
It’s true Democrats have rejected Rauner’s turnaround agenda. For instance, House Democrats have repeatedly voted for one of Rauner’s proposals — to freeze property taxes — but say they are philosophically against the second tenet of Rauner’s property-tax proposal that would also strip collective-bargaining rights from local governments.
There appears to be little movement on either side, even as a slew of human service agencies have flagged they’re headed for a crisis since they haven’t been paid yet this budget year.
The state hasn’t had a budget since July 1. And while some bills have been paid, money isn’t going toward services affecting seniors, day-care centers and early intervention services, to name a few.
Rauner said it was “outrageous” that the state was in this position.
“My heart’s broken when I see the potential suffering and the actual suffering that’s going on right now. It’s outrageous,” Rauner said. “This should not be allowed to have occurred. We should have had this resolved months ago.”
But if we really are entering a new era of shared power and shared leadership in Springfield, then Rauner can no longer shift all the blame for the state’s troubles onto Madigan. He will have a much more difficult time pinning inaction in Springfield on a Democratic supermajority.
The conversation has now shifted: If Rauner could ensure that schools opened on time and that state workers are paid on time — and kill an override to his veto of the AFSCME arbitration bill — then he has the power to do more.
Follow Natasha Korecki on Twitter: @natashakorecki