Republican Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois accused Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan of personally profiting from the “status quo” as the two leaders fought over the state’s budget crisis.
“Mike Madigan is making millions -- millions -- from his law firm, from high property taxes,” Rauner said. “Right now, the insiders, the political class, is winning and hard-working families, taxpayers, small-business owners and homeowners, they’re losing and they’re leaving.”
The clash over how to close a $6.2 billion deficit for the year beginning July 1 intensified with Rauner’s remarks at a Tuesday news conference in Springfield, where he was surrounded by Republican legislators as well as business and agricultural representatives. The standoff has taken on personal overtones, but the outcome could affect the public with credit downgrades and a disruption of services.
Rauner’s remarks about Madigan’s income were a reference to Chicago Tribune stories in 2010. They examined overlaps between Madigan’s roles as speaker and state Democratic Party chairman and tax work done by his law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner.
“The charges are baseless,” said Steve Brown, a Madigan spokesman. “The Madigan law firm does not benefit at all from higher taxes.”
Rauner, 59, also criticized Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat, for moving too slowly on his proposed freeze of local property levies. Lawmakers returned Tuesday to the state capitol to continue work on the budget.
“Property taxes are the No. 1 tax crushing the middle class in Illinois,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Cullerton said he had met with the governor to discuss how to pursue property-tax freezes while addressing school funding needs. “Instead of demonstrating a willingness to compromise, the governor defaulted to campaign style mudslinging and personal attacks,” said Rikeesha Phelon.
Rauner, a former private-equity executive and the first Republican elected governor since 1998, has said he wouldn’t agree to tax increases unless Democrats approve spending cuts and ease business regulations. He’s confronting Democratic supermajorities in both chambers.
An agreement couldn’t be reached during the legislature’s budget session late last month, meaning any compromise will require a three-fifths majority.
Illinois has been sliding deeper into financial trouble for years. The state is graded A3 by Moody’s Investors Service and an equivalent A- by S&P. While both give it a negative outlook, S&P put Illinois on review for a rating cut after the state’s highest court overturned a 2013 pension overhaul intended to resolve a $111 billion unfunded retirement liability.