News Local/State

Former Governor Sees Parallels From 1991 To Current Budget Impasse


The state's current fiscal battle features a first-year Republican governor, a Democratic House Speaker, and a huge budget deficit.  That scenario sounds familiar to former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar, who is now a distinguished fellow with the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Edgar spoke with Illinois Public Media's Brian Moline earlier this week about navigating those dangerous fiscal waters, and his relationship with House Speaker Mike Madigan.

"When I became governor in 1991, the state faced the biggest budget deficit it ever had in its history up to that point," Edgar said.  "We were also hit with a recession the third week of my administration, so we had one problem after another when it came to the budget in '91."

Another issue in Edgar's first year was building a relationship with House Speaker Mike Madigan.  Edgar says things got off to a rocky start.

"He (Madigan) really didn't want me to win because that year was also a redistricting year," Edgar said.  "He wanted a Democratic governor to sign the map they were going to pass.  He knew I was going to veto it, so he wasn't happy."

But, Edgar says even in that difficult first year, he and Madigan were able to eventually work together to come up with a budget.

"We still disagreed, but by the end of the session, when we were in overtime, about every day he'd be down in my office, and we'd have lunch together," Edgar said.  "We knew we were going to have to compromise.  We were both going to have to get something we wanted."

Edgar and Madigan finally hammered out a deal in mid-July of 1991 that included permanent tax increases and worker layoffs.  Edgar says budget issues became much easier to resolve with Madigan from that point forward.

"After that session, he had a better understanding of me as governor," Edgar said.  "By the end of my eight years as governor, he was probably my best ally on a lot of issues, especially the budget."