The top Democrats and Republicans of the Illinois General Assembly met Sunday for the first time this year, and there are some signs of progress.
House Speaker Michael Madigan has consistently objected to Gov. Bruce Rauner making his political and economic agenda a prerequisite for passing a budget. At Sunday's meeting, Madigan said Republicans were still talking about what he calls “off-budget” issues. That, he said, “prompted me to add items to the off-budget list.”
Madigan said he expects three things from Rauner: signing the Democrats’ education funding overhaul; letting Illinois regulate workers’ compensation insurance rates; and slowing down a big change in the Medicaid program, so it can go through the normal procurement process.
“This is a governmental negotiation. This is a situation where nobody gets 100 percent," Madigan said. "I asked the Republican leaders: Please go down to the governor and explain — in a governmental negotiation, nobody gets 100 percent. Please do that."
Asked about Madigan's demands, the Rauner administration referred questions to House Minority Leader Jim Durkin. He said he'd discuss Madigan's demands with the Rauner administration.
“Remember, there’s been a lot of complaints about the governor 'moving the goalposts’ — we just saw that today from the Democrats," Durkin said. "But you know, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We’ll work it out."
The next major budget deadline is Friday at the end of the current fiscal year. But Illinois’ financial situation is getting worse by the day. Without a budget, credit-rating agencies are expected to make Illinois the first state with a “junk” bond rating.
Last Friday, Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Illinois would have trouble meeting court-ordered payments by August. And a day earlier, the Higher Learning Commission wrote Rauner and members of the General Assembly to effectively say that unless state universities get adequate funding, they could be sanctioned and eventually lose accreditation.