Governor delays budget summit because Madigan can't attend
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Gov. Bruce Rauner on Saturday postponed next week's highly touted budget meeting after House Speaker Michael Madigan said he couldn't attend because of a family matter, marking a setback in what would have been the first meeting between the governor and legislative leaders in months.
Rauner delayed the meeting until Dec. 1, shortly after Madigan said he wouldn't be able to attend the Wednesday meeting because of a family funeral in another state. Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, has been the toughest roadblock to the governor's conservative agenda.
Rauner's chief of staff, Mike Schrimpf, said the meeting was delayed "out of respect for the speaker's family obligations and to help facilitate the attendance of all." Schrimpf also extended the governor's condolences to Madigan's family.
The meeting would have been the first time since May that the Republican governor and the four legislative leaders were in the same room together.
The first-year governor has feuded with Democrats who control the Legislature over a spending plan that should have taken effect July 1. Rauner has said he wouldn't talk spending until lawmakers approve his pro-business, political-reform agenda that he says will boost the economy and bolster state revenue.
Democrats - including Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, also a Chicago Democrat - say Rauner is holding the budget hostage to that itinerary but needs to deal in dollars and cents to remedy a deepening budget hole.
Good-government groups last month offered to host a meeting to get the two sides talking, and Madigan said it should be public. On Friday, Rauner proposed allowing the public in for brief opening remarks from both sides, then holding negotiations in private.
It's unclear if Madigan endorses the idea. In his statement Saturday, he said: "I continue to support an open and public discussion about how the Legislature and the governor can work together to address the state's biggest issue, solving the budget deficit."
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the House speaker didn't say whether he wanted the curtain pulled back on the whole affair. But he said Madigan believed that the time allotted for a public statement wouldn't be enough to make a case for a balanced budget with a tax increase along with spending cuts.
Contact AP Political Writer John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/john-oconnor