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Madigan fires back at Rauner while Munger plans to delay payments to legislators

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

Gov. Rauner fired off a series of blistering attacks last week against House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd), stating that he was not serious about bringing an end to the budget impasse that is currently in its 10th month.

This week, Madigan fired right back, accusing the governor of trying to destroy the working class residents of the state and engineering this deadlock as far as three years ago.

Madigan on April 13 signed on as a co-sponsor of House Bill 6211 that was introduced by state Rep. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill. Manar’s bill is supposed to cost about $600 million. During the first year, $400 million will be provided to make sure the school districts don’t lose money. Manar’s bill would offer $200 million for the state to pay Chicago teacher pensions.

Rauner originally did not comment on the bill but has since said he opposes it, claiming that it will just increase the state’s debt. Madigan countered by saying that state has never gone this long without a budget. He added that other governors he has worked with have negotiated in good faith.

“The fact is the current budget crisis was completely avoidable,” Madigan said. “Gov Rauner has refused to put an end to the crisis.”

Madigan alludes to a dinner for Republicans in 2013 in which Rauner said even if the majority of Democrats are against them, they can’t stop the GOP. The House Speaker added that Rauner said the Democrats won’t be able to stop “me if I want to dramatically spend less. You need the legislature to spend more. If you want to spend less, they can’t stop me.”

The House Speaker has said that trying to compromise with Rauner has been difficult. Democrats want Rauner to drop his demands for reforms and concentrate on the budget. The governor said he is willing to support a tax increase but he needs to have Democrats agree to some of his demands. Democrats insist that Rauner wants everything is his turnaround agenda. The governor said that is not true.

“I can never, and will never support a tax hike without significant reforms,” said Rauner. “I just won’t to do it. Just cannot do it. It would be a huge error.”

Madigan responded that “state government has a vital role to play in working to provide needed services for those who need them the most.”

Rauner and Madigan have not commented on State Comptroller Leslie Munger’s announcement on Sunday about delaying payment to state legislators.

Munger said that compensation for Illinois' General Assembly members and Constitutional Officers - herself included - will be treated the same as all other government payments and delayed due to the state's $7.8 billion bill backlog.

The state comptroller said the state has to pay bills under a patchwork of court orders, consent decrees and statutory authorizations. As a result, the state is expected to dig $6.2 billion deeper in the hole this year, worsening its fiscal condition, exacerbating cash flow challenges and lengthening payment delays, she said.

With families, social service organizations, schools and businesses waiting months on end for promised payments from the state, Munger said it is appropriate for elected leaders to face delays as well.

"Our social service network is being dismantled, mass layoffs are occurring and small businesses across Illinois are awaiting payments for services they've already provided," Munger said. "As our cash crunch grows in the coming months, it is only appropriate that the unfair prioritization of payments to elected leaders ends. We are all in this together; we all will wait in line."

Salaries for the state's six Constitutional Officers and 177 General Assembly members total about $1.3 million a month, or $15.6 million annually, according to the state comptroller. The elected leaders are customarily paid on the last day of the month. Munger said that her office will still process the vouchers monthly, but the warrants will then wait in a queue with other payments before being released when cash is available.

State payments are currently delayed a minimum of two months, unless they are expedited due to severe hardship. That wait time is expected to grow in lower revenue months in the summer and fall.

"It is the right thing to do," Munger said. "And if this action helps bring all sides together to pass a balanced budget and end this unnecessary and devastating hardship to our state, that is an added benefit.

"Illinois needs a balanced budget. It is well past time that we get it done."