It'll be 2016 before Illinois' top political leaders meet again, as a historic stalemate grinds on.
If it wasn't obvious before that Illinois' political impasse wasn't going to end this year, it is now. "With the holidays now and, you know, kids on vacation, and travel, we may not be able to meet in the next two weeks," Gov. Bruce Rauner said Friday morning, after touring a Chicago high school.
Rauner says he expects he and the legislative leaders will next meet in early January. No date is set, but Rauner predicts it'll be around Jan. 3-5.
By then, Illinois will have gone a full half year without a budget.
Rauner, a Republican, says passing his agenda will take "persistence."
He continues to insist that, before he'll negotiate on taxes and spending, Illinois reduce workers' compensation benefits, weaken labor rights, and institute legislative redistricting and term limits. Democrats remain opposed and say the focus must be on the immediate budget crisis.
Rauner said a meeting Thursday was productive, though he -- as had the Republican legislative leaders -- expressed disappointment that Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan was absent. "He's not a big fan of those four leader meetin's," Rauner said. "I mean ... he has not really wanted to have those during the summer and the fall. He has come to a few of those recently."
Rauner indicated that Madigan had told his office several days ago that he wouldn't be able to make it.
"So he could have canceled this meeting, if (Madigan's presence) was such a critical element; but, apparently, it wasn't," Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.
Brown says the governor offered no basis or backup for his statement and called Rauner's remark "totally inaccurate."
"I have no reason to believe that the speaker doesn't like the meetings and isn't willing to be part of the meetings; the facts contradict that," Brown said, adding that "historically" the gatherings have not been "the most productive."
Brown has given no indication of Madigan's whereabouts.
Thursday's meeting was the third such gathering in as many weeks.Previously, the last time the governor and General Assembly's top Republicans and Democrats all gathered together was in May.