Gov. Bruce Rauner said pressure from Illinois House Democrats is responsible for the Senate’s failure to pass a “grand bargain” that would end the state’s historic budget impasse.
Speaking Friday on WBEZ’s Morning Shift, Rauner claimed Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) was “under relentless pressure” from Democratic “lieutenants” in the House and politically-aligned special interest groups. Rauner did not offer any specific evidence that House Democrats directly lobbied to kill the budget proposals.
“I’ve been told that several — I won’t name names right here on this program — but several of the Senate Democrats have decided, boy, it’s not worth the pressure they’re getting,” Rauner told Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia. “They’re pulling back off the grand bargain and not wanting to negotiate anymore.”
A spokesman for Cullerton said House Democrats had nothing to do with “all but one of the Republican votes for the budget deal disappearing overnight,” referring to Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), who supported the grand bargain.
A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) accused Rauner of putting the grand bargain on life support by telling Republican senators to not support the plan.
"This was neither grand nor a bargain,” said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. “House Democrats were waiting for something to come about in a final form to even comment on. We never really saw that. We saw a group of bad ideas -- harder for workers to take care of their injuries, harder for people to pay police and firefighters and teachers. So it's a little too late for the governor to try to cover up his own derailing of negotiations that were going on between Senator Cullerton and Senator Radogno."
The governor has denied he threatened senators to back away from the grand bargain.
Speaking remotely from WUIS in Springfield, Rauner took questions about jobs and the economy from listeners during a wide-ranging conversation on Morning Shift.
Below are highlights from their discussion.
On the role of house Democrats in scuttling the grand bargain
Gov. Bruce Rauner: The bad news is the House Democratic leadership has been sending over some of their lieutenants and some of the leaders of their special interest groups that fund them over to attack the Senate Democrats — and try to blow up the grand bargain. That’s what’s been happening over the last six weeks. And I feel bad for Senate President Cullerton and some of his Senate Democrats.
You know, there’s a real difference between the two chambers in the General Assembly. I think it’s important for your listeners to understand that in the Senate — I’ve got a lot of good friends in the Senate Democratic Caucus — most of them are there for the right reasons and they are very policy-oriented. They’re trying to do things to improve the quality of life for the people of Illinois, and they’re willing to compromise and negotiate.
But over in the House — the House isn’t very policy-focused. They’re very focused on loyalty to Speaker Madigan — and that comes first and foremost — and the speaker has been steadfast against any changes, any reforms whatsoever. He simply wants to either do a stopgap spending plan that will force a tax-hike later, or force a tax-hike right now without any changes to grow the economy. That would be a disaster for the people of Illinois.
Tony Sarabia: Where did you hear that about House Democrats, because this is the first time that we’re hearing this — that they’re sending over, as you say, special interests to block …
Rauner: You should check with the Senate Democrats about the pressure they’re getting. President Cullerton has been under relentless pressure. Special interest groups are beating him up. Senate Democrats are feeling a lot of pressure. In fact, I’ve been told that several — I won’t name names right here on this program — but several of the Senate Democrats have decided, boy, it’s not worth the pressure they’re getting. They’re pulling back off the grand bargain and not wanting to negotiate anymore.
That’s a tragedy that the special interest groups are pressuring them not to do a grand bargain. We need a balanced budget. We should’ve done this two years ago, and we need structural change to grow the economy so we can keep our budgets balanced.
On why he insists term limits be included in a budget deal
Rauner: The reason this is so critical for balanced budgets for now and in the future is our political system has been broken for years. We have a lot of self-dealing, a lot of self-interest, a lot of corruption, people being prosecuted (and) some going to jail for years and years.
Term limits, as President Obama has acknowledged, is one of the best ways to deal with corruption in government. Businesses, job creators, taxpayers, working families want their government to work for them — to not be corrupt, not be self-interested. And for them to have confidence to stay in Illinois — to grow in Illinois, to invest in Illinois — term limits is one of the best ways to increase their confidence so that they’ll invest and grow and grow jobs.
That’s directly tied to the budget for the long term. We can’t keep budgets balanced unless we’re growing our economy as fast or faster than our government spending has been growing.
On why the minimum wage should be raised as part of grand bargain
Rauner: The best way to raise wages is through a booming economy where companies are competing to hire workers. That’s the best way. That said, I support raising the minimum wage in Illinois. We already have a higher one than all the other midwest states — that’s one of the drags on our economy — but I support raising it in the context of a balanced budget with structural reforms to bring down the regulatory burden on our businesses, so they can afford to pay a higher minimum wage.
I have said this for four years now. And, the good news is Senate Republicans have said they will support raising the minimum wage as part of a grand bargain with Senate Democrats. That has been on the table clearly. What you should know … the Senate Democrats have taken raising the minimum wage off the table. They have not included (it) in the package of the grand bargain. I think all the residents of Illinois should ask the Senate Democrats, “Why have they taken raising the minimum wage off the table as part of a grand bargain?”
What is behind that? I would love to hear their answer because the Democrats have taken it off the table.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Press the ‘play’ button above to hear the entire segment.