News Local/State

Despite Pivot To Economy, Madigan Still Says Budget Is Top Issue

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, during an appearance on public television's "Illinois Lawmakers" program, at the end of the spring, 2013 legislative session. Wikimedia Commons

Michael Madigan was re-elected speaker of the Illinois House for the 17th time Wednesday as the 100 Illinois General Assembly got under way. Madigan's election came despite a Republican Party campaign to pressure Democrats into dropping him. The Chicago Democrat used the occasion to call for a focus on economic growth.

Madigan's agenda consists largely of ideas he's suggested before: cutting the corporate tax rate --- as long as every corporation pays something ---- increasing taxes on millionaires, and raising the minimum wage.

"We can lift up the middle class (and) provide good jobs for working families, while also passing policies that help business grow and expand our economy," Madigan said.

In a statement, Gov. Bruce Rauner responded favorably to Madigan's economic focus. Rauner has refused to negotiate on a state budget unless Democrats tie it to his business-friendly agenda.

Madigan, however, is sticking to his position that Illinois can pass a budget and encourage growth without conditioning one on the other. He's repeatedly said Illinois' budget deficit is the No. 1 issue facing state government.

Republicans in the Illinois House re-elected Jim Durkin as their Minority Leader.

Durkin was still upset about political gamesmanship from the last term. He received a standing ovation from his fellow Republicans when he criticized Democrats for what he called “gotcha votes” – in which the same bill was called for a vote 17 times.

“This tactic is unworthy of our chamber and of our oath of office”, said Durkin. “That is not active participation in state government. Enough is enough.”

Durkin ended his speech asking for bipartisan cooperation going forward.