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Mixed Assessments At General Assembly Budget Meeting

"20110420-RD-LSC-0369" By Flickr User U.S. Department of Agriculture / (CC X 2.0)

Mixed messages came out of a meeting Tuesday between the Illinois governor and legislative leaders. It was their first meeting in months, even as Illinois is in the midst of an unprecedented budget standoff.

Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat, left the meeting saying he got what he wanted out of it.

"The main thing I wanted to accomplish was to make sure that in the revenue side ... that the governor was committed to being in favor of some revenue increases, and he said he was," Cullerton said.

In other words: Cullerton got an in-person commitment from Rauner -- a Republican -- to an eventual tax increase (though he says the governor wouldn't get into specifics).

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin left happy, too, with what he took as Speaker Michael Madigan's fresh openness to the GOP pro-business agenda.

"This is great! This is a reversal of the Speaker that we've been hearing for the past year," Durkin said. "I'm pleased to say that -- after many, many months of objection by the Speaker to address any type of reform -- the Speaker had indicated he will open negotiations on collective bargaining, local governments, pension reform and also workmens' (sic) compensation reform. Those are the key to breaking the impasse."

But Christine Radogno, the top Republican in the Senate, was cautious.

"I will tell you from my perspective, I'm pretty skeptical. We've had a lot of working groups and his disavows any knowledge or interest of them every time. This will be one more go around," she said of Speaker Madigan. "Ultimately the working group needs to be the Speaker himself and the leaders, because he manipulates the process and then nothing happens. And frankly that's what I'm worried about."

In a statement issued after the meeting, Madigan said a budget could pass if the governor drops his agenda.

"The governor’s continued insistence on passage of his agenda that hurts the middle class is a clear indication he is not interested in passing and implementing comprehensive, full-year budgets that do not decimate needed services relied upon by the people of Illinois," Madigan said.

His spokesman says that, at Rauner's request, Madigan will appoint House Democrats to participate in working groups that will meet soon to discuss pension, workers' compensation and other items on the agenda.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.