What started last week as something of a Hail Mary pass on the Illinois state budget may bring Gov. Bruce Rauner and the four leaders of the Illinois General Assembly together for an unprecedented public negotiation session on Nov. 18.
Last week the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform teamed up with six other political reform groups on an open letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin offering to organize and host a public meeting with them and Gov. Bruce Rauner to break the deadlock that's left the state operating for almost four months with no budget.
"As you know, this inaction is unprecedented and unacceptable to Illinois voters," the letter said. "ICPR, along with the other nonpartisan reform organizations listed above, want to help. We are ready to facilitate the logistics of a meeting in either Chicago or Springfield, but believe that it must occur prior to November 15th due to the urgent need for resolution on this issue."
Though Rauner has met periodically with Madigan and Cullerton individually since the end of the legislative session on May 31, there has not been a meeting that included Rauner and all four leaders since May. The budget year started July 1, and without a budget to control spending or bring in new revenue, the state is on pace to spend $34.5 billion while bringing in only $32.1 billion. But that figure does not include spending that can happen only when authorized by a budget. Items like higher education spending will push the gap much higher.
"After more than 100 days of this stalemate, the consequences have become clear," the letter said. "Illinois residents in serious need are unable to receive important government services, and many non-profit organizations are unable to continue critically important work tied to state grants. Illinois' state universities and community colleges may not be able to operate in the next semester of this academic year, leaving many students unable to graduate on time. The consequences are too great. We cannot let this situation continue."
Apparently the governor agreed, and on Friday send his own letter to Madigan, Cullerton, Radogno and Durkin. The governor declines the reform groups' offer to "facilitate the logistics" of a meeting, but otherwise welcomes the idea. Most remarkable is Rauner's welcoming of doing the session in public. That's unprecedented.
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