Editorial: Rauner, Madigan, let's do this in public
Imagine the political spectacle of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and the other legislative leaders giving a public airing to the stumbling blocks that have kept Illinois without a budget for 120 days.
It would be quite a show. But with Illinois on a track to unprecedented financial doom, it has to be more than that.
Such a gathering is under consideration for Nov. 18. Some political maneuvering could scuttle it, but the governor and legislative leaders have at least given a nod to the idea and pressure is building for a public meeting to occur.
The idea came from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, headed by former state Sen. Susan Garrett of Lake Forest, and six other political reform groups. In a letter, they offered to set up a public meeting for Illinois leaders to negotiate an end to the budget impasse.
Rauner stepped in and said it's his job to organize leadership meetings, so he sent another letter inviting Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs.
Rauner also said he'll be setting the agenda, and Madigan won't commit until he sees it.
Madigan should get on board, but even then it's not quite a Kumbaya moment. Rauner's letter, for instance, still calls for "structural reforms," a term he uses to refer to pro-business changes, largely opposed by Democrats, that he says must be passed before he'll consider a tax increase to balance the budget.
For both sides, it's time to stop drawing lines in the sand and start negotiating a compromise. A public meeting of Illinois' top leaders gives us hope for that.
Some find it hard to envision open negotiations on an Illinois budget, which usually comes together in a few marathon days of closed-door meetings in May.
But then, people would have found it hard to imagine the state sinking as far as it has in recent months, with vendors unpaid, the needy cut off from services, payments to pension funds delayed, community colleges facing cutbacks, the credit rating diving, and spending -- since there's no spending plan to curtail it -- outpacing revenue by billions of dollars.
It's questionable whether the closed-door deal making ever worked to the best advantage of the residents of Illinois. This year, it didn't work at all.
It's time for a different approach.
Democratic state Sen. Julie Morrison of Deerfield goes even further than a single open meeting. She told Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell she proposes the governor and top lawmakers meet for an hour per week, in public, until the budget's worked out.
We urge Rauner, Madigan and the other legislative leaders to commit to the Nov. 18 public meeting as a start. Get together in front of the state's residents and begin figuring out how to come up with a budget. Or say out loud and in front of all of us the reasons why you won't compromise.
Good for Garrett, Morrison and the others for suggesting a way to get off the dime. We ask our government leaders to pull out some of those election-season platitudes -- words like transparency and reform -- and try a new way.