The state Capitol was quiet Monday, after the departure of lawmakers locked in a budget stalemate with Gov. Bruce Rauner. But the silence belied a cacophony of political ads the rookie administration is about to unleash on powerful legislative Democrats calling them an elite “political class” unwilling to help the middle class.
Republican Rauner previewed the video assault Monday, contending the state can’t find a financial footing without his proposed political- and business-climate changes.
Democrats adopted a $36.3 billion spending plan that they acknowledge is short on revenue by $3 billion and left town. They insist Rauner’s agenda for term limits, fairer political-district drawing, a local property tax freeze and less-costly workers’ compensation insurance are unrelated to funding essential government services – those vital to the low-income and middle class.
Rauner countered that his agenda is “intimately connected” with budget negotiations – his changes would stymie a “thriving political class of politicians and lobbyists monetarily dependent on the formidable House speaker, Chicago Democrat Michael Madigan.
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“We’ve had financial instability in Illinois for years, for decades,” Rauner told WBEZ radio. “And it’s because our government is so full of conflicts of interest and so full of mismanagement.”
A look at what might come next:
Q: WHAT WILL RAUNER’S ADS LOOK LIKE?
A: Rauner won’t confirm they’re in the can, but aides have suggested the main target is Madigan. Expect them to go beyond perceived recent inflexibility and to examine the Illinois Democratic Party chairman’s three decades as speaker. There was no immediate evidence Monday that TV stations had reserved time for Rauner ads.
Q: HOW WILL THE DEMOCRATS RESPOND?
A: Madigan will continue to work “in a professional and cooperative manner,” spokesman Steve Brown said. No advertising slouch, Madigan has begun sending his message in mailers to Republican turf.
Perhaps more important is how local legislators offset the broadcast rancor. When lawmakers aren’t in Springfield, they’re often knocking on voters’ doors.
“They’d be delivering a report on the session and the accomplishments that were made, things we were able to pass,” Brown said. “I’m not sure how well-received whatever this attack will be, how credible it will be, in that context.”
Q: WHO MAKES THE NEXT MOVE?
A: Lawmakers didn’t cover the statehouse furniture for the season. They’ll be back – the House on Thursday and the Senate on June 9. Brown said Madigan plans a vote – he wouldn’t disclose the subject but noted there’s “the issue of working with the administration on some additional revenue.” Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, said Democrats want to show Rauner they’re still open to talk.
“Scheduling a return date before a deal is reached is an act of faith,” Phelon said. “Hopefully negotiations will progress by then.”
No legislator will be reimbursed for mileage or meals. Past summer sessions of inaction have prompted news media to tally up the daily cost to taxpayers.
Q: THE BUDGET YEAR BEGINS JULY 1. WHAT IF THERE’S NO DEAL BY THEN?
A: The state comptroller will have difficulty meeting payroll for the second half of July without a budget to draw from. If it drags on into the dog days, Aug. 10 is the date that public schools are scheduled to receive their first of about two dozen twice-monthly operations payments of about $200 million.