Gov. Rauner calls latest Illinois budget meeting productive
CHICAGO -- Gov. Bruce Rauner said Friday that the final meeting of the year with legislative leaders about the state budget impasse was productive, even though House Speaker Michael Madigan did not attend.
The Republican governor commented Friday after the Democratic speaker missed the latest meeting Thursday due to what his spokesman said was a scheduling conflict.
"I was disappointed that he couldn't make it," Rauner said after touring DeVry University's Chicago campus.
The meeting was the third in as many weeks as Rauner and legislative leaders try to find agreement on a state spending plan. The state has been operating without one since July 1.
Aside from Madigan, the lawmakers invited to the meetings have been Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and GOP leaders Sen. Christine Radogno and Rep. Jim Durkin.
Rauner contends Madigan is "not a big fan" of the meetings.
"He has not really wanted to have those," Rauner said.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown disputed Rauner's assessment Friday, saying there was no basis for him to draw that conclusion. Madigan participated in the two prior meetings, and Brown said the speaker makes every effort to attend.
Brown declined to say what Madigan's scheduling conflict was Thursday, and the governor said it wasn't explained to him, either.
Without offering many specifics, Rauner said Thursday's meeting was productive and focused on term limits, redistricting and fixing the state's $111 billion pension debt. Madigan has referred to those topics as "Republican campaign issues for November 2016" that have no place in budget talks. But Republicans counter those changes are needed to end years of corruption.
Rauner says the next meeting will likely be the first week of January.
"We're making progress. This is just going to take persistence," Rauner said.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Rauner said Madigan "has not really wanted to have those" meetings instead of "has not wanted to be there."