News Local/State

Madigan On Rauner, In His Own Words

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

House Speaker Michael Madigan speaks with reporters in this December 2015 file photo. Brian Mackey/WUIS

On Tuesday afternoon, Statehouse reporters got an email from the spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan. “Let me suggest listening to the speaker’s comments … on the floor,” the message read.

It’s rare for the speaker to be in the House chamber at all, let alone giving a prepared speech on a major policy issue. So we thought it’d be worth hearing most of his remarks.

But first, a bit of background. As you know, Illinois has gone nine-and-a-half months without a budget. When Tuesday began, Madigan and the other legislative leaders had not met with Gov. Bruce Rauner since December. But that morning, at a speech before a group of business leaders in Springfield, Senate President John Cullerton announced that was about to change.

"We are going to meet with the governor today, at 2:30,” Cullerton said, to applause from the gathering. “So you have a little news there for you. And we’re going to talk about the budget, so that’s encouraging."

Except: Rauner went before the same group of business people a little later — before the big meeting — and belittled Democrats, questioning their honesty and motivations.

“The Democrats are saying ‘no reforms, no reforms,' just focus on 'budget,’ meaning — when they say that, what they mean is, ‘Governor, support a tax hike,’” said Rauner. “That’s what they mean. They don’t ever want to really say that directly."

The governor and leaders met for maybe an hour — it’s tough to say, since they all left by back doors, evading the reporters waiting outside.

Then came the speaker’s speech. It was the last word on a spending bill that would send about $4 billion to cash starved public universities, social service agencies and other groups.

Here now is a portion of Madigan’s remarks. As spoken by him, it took up about seven minutes:


Numerous bills and amendments have been brought to the floor of this chamber as renewed statements of the priorities of House Democrats. With few exceptions, the governor and his people in this chamber have rejected those funding plans.

 Even in the case of 911 services, motor fuel tax revenue for municipalities, and appropriations from federal funds, it took a great deal of time and effort to convince the governor to move off of his personal agenda.

The governor’s objections to House Democratic budget priorities are based on his insistence that the General Assembly first pass his personal agenda, which is targeted at diminishing the wages and the standard of living of the middle class and other struggling families.

It’s true that we need to do more to create good-paying jobs with good wages in Illinois, and improve our economic condition. But progress will not be made by targeting the wages and the standard of living of the middle class and others who are already struggling.

So we have had and we will continue to have our differences. But differences with governors is not new to me, nor is it something that has prevented me from working with governors of both political parties for the good of the people of Illinois in passing state budgets. Over 30 years, I have worked with six governors from both political parties — twice as many Republicans as Democrats.

We didn’t always agree on the issues. We didn’t always agree on the best approach to passing the state budget. I had differences of opinion with all of the governors that I’ve worked with, including governors of my own party. And let me repeat that: including governors of my own party. Many of you will recall the very strong differences that I had with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. However, we found a way to compromise.

My record over the years is one of compromise — regardless of the governor or his political party — to pass a budget that does not withhold the services that the people of Illinois depend upon.

It is my openness to compromise, that I stated more than a year ago, and why I continue to believe that to solve the state budget deficit, we must take a balanced approach. The spending plans approved by the legislature almost a year ago took that approach, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars without decimating the vital services that Illinois residents, children and the elderly depend upon.

Like the governor’s own budget, ours was not fully in balance. But we publicly acknowledged that, and we have been prepared to address that.

Over the last 13 months, compromise has been very difficult to achieve. Never before has the state gone this long without a budget. Every other governor that I have worked with has negotiated with the General Assembly, in good faith, to help the people of Illinois and to ensure that the people of our state did not needlessly suffer.

The fact is, the current budget crisis was completely avoidable. While this crisis was avoidable, Gov. Rauner has refused to put an end to the crisis. And some of his remarks in recent years clearly indicate this has been his plan from the very beginning. At the Tazewell County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, March 2013, Gov. Rauner said, and I quote: ‘Even if (Democrats) got a major majority against us, you know what? They can’t stop us. They won’t stop me if I want to dramatically spend less. You need the legislature if you want to spend more. If you want to spend less, they can’t stop me.’ And: ‘I apologize. We may have to go through a little rough times. If we have to do what Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers, if we sort of have to do a do-over and shut things down for a little while’ — like universities and social-service providers — ‘that’s what we’re going to do.'

My view of the important role of state government, which I have argued stands in stark contrast with Gov. Rauner’s view of the role of state government, as shown through his comments, has not changed since I first took office. State government has a vital role to play in working to provide needed services for those who need them the most. And you’ll even find the few times that Gov. Rauner has set aside his personal agenda, that hurts middle-class families, we have been able to compromise and move our state forward.

That is why I will continue to make my top priority a budget that takes a balanced approach to prevent the most critical state services from being decimated by personal political agendas.

I support the passage of Senate Bill 2046 and the critical funding for needed services that would be provided to the people of the state of Illinois.


Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, in his own words. That's an excerpt of a prepared speech in favor of a $4 billion spending plan for state universities, social service agencies and others.

The measure passed the Illinois House 65-42 (with three members voting present) on Tuesday, but with a strong denunciation from the governor and no Republican votes. It was passed by the Senate 38-17 on Wednesday, and now goes to the governor's desk.