News Local/State

Gov. Edgar to Gov. Rauner: Back Down And Compromise

Jim Edgar

Jim Edgar

Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar has some advice for the man currently in the job. Governor Bruce Rauner's fellow Republican says it's time to back down and compromise.

It's been over five weeks since Illinois began working without a budget, and state leaders don't seem close to compromise. The two main players in the standoff: Governor Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

Both say they could work together to pass a budget, but Rauner says he won't compromise his five pro-business initiatives from his "Turnaround Agenda." Madigan, on the other hand, calls Rauner's positions "extreme."

Former Governor Edgar says it might be time for Rauner to blink.

"Some of these other issues are very important, but to me there's nothing more important at this point than to get the state back on sound fiscal ground with a good budget -- a budget that provides adequate funding, adequate revenues, that can suffice for several years," he said.

Edgar says he sees room for compromise in the area of worker's compensation, and says he's seen Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) open up to potential compromise. But, Edgar said, Rauner should accept that Democrats won't see it his way any time soon.

"Some of the things he's asking for, they're not going to give him. They're just not going to give him," he said. "Truthfully the Democrats can walk away a lot easier than he can. They're not the governor."

Adding to the standoff is the absence of more traditional pressure points, Edgar said. Though Illinois has entered its second month operating budget-less, it hasn't been an all-out government shutdown. Edgar says that would've hastened a budget compromise.

"Part of the dilemma is, the courts have let them pay people without a budget. I mean, I just find that amazing, I just can't believe that. You know, then the Democrats sent part of the budget to the governor -- the education -- and he signed it. So you took away a lot of the pressure points."

In 1991, a budget fight between Edgar and Madigan left state workers without paychecks for nearly three weeks. But recent lawsuits gave the state the authority to pay state workers, even without a formal budget in place.

Now that 80 percent of the state's budget has been spent via court order or longstanding law, Edgar says the state's neediest citizens will be squeezed out in the fight over the remaining state spending.

In that 1991 battle, and another in 1995, Edgar stressed that the lines of communication were always open between him and the Democrats, recalling almost daily lunches with Madigan. Rauner and the Speaker, on the other hand, have met only sparingly in the months since the governor was sworn in.

Edgar made his remarks after the conclusion of the 2015 Edgar Fellows conference, a week-long training seminar which encourages young people in Illinois government to work across the aisle.