House Speaker Madigan diplomatic in assessing Rauner State of the State Address
Gov. Bruce Rauner used his first State of the State Address to make bold statements against the forces he sees as keeping Illinois in a state of economic dysfunction: public-sector unions, trial lawyers, excessive regulation on business.
And while Rauner called on the Democrat-controlled Legislature to work with him to do “great things,” he and everyone else in the Illinois House chamber on Wednesday knows that not one of his proposals — from radical ideas like “right-to-work zones” to more moderate actions like raising the minimum wage (albeit in a business-friendly way) — will be anything more than words in a speech without the blessing of the Democrats who lead the Legislature: House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.
With super-majority control in their respective chambers, Madigan and Cullerton can pass legislation knowing their members can override a veto from the new governor. They also can prevent any bill pushed by Rauner from ever receiving a vote in their chamber.
Madigan, who has led the House for all but two of the last 32 years, has a well-deserved reputation for getting what he wants passed and ensuring that anything he does not want to pass fails. In reaction to Rauner’s speech, Madigan maintained the cooperative tone he has adopted ever since Rauner’s election.
“I’ve known Mr. Rauner before he decided to be a candidate for governor. He has a lot of strong views on a lot of public issues. He enunciated a lot of those views in the speech today, which he should do,” Madigan said in a press conference following the speech. “Now those views, those issues, those bills will be before the Legislature and they’ll be disposed of by the Legislature, some favorably, some not favorably. That’s the American democratic process.”
Cullerton was less conciliatory. He interpreted Rauner’s speech not as a call for cooperation in a divided government but a reinforcement of battle lines Rauner drew during his campaign.
“Unfortunately, too much of the governor’s opportunity was squandered with campaign rhetoric that denigrates the reputation of the state. The people of this state elected a divided government, but the governor will soon learn that it doesn’t mean that he needs to be divisive,” Cullerton said in a statement.
Cullerton’s statement echoed the sentiment he expressed on Jan. 14 after being sworn in by Rauner, when he diplomatically scolded the new governor for accusing Democrats of not working with Republicans in the Senate.
Madigan’s press conference was illuminating if only to appreciate how deftly he mixed a pledge to work with Rauner and a warning to the governor about his true feelings on some of the ideas in the speech. Here, for example, is Madigan’s answer when asked about Rauner’s desire to let local communities decide if workers in union workplaces can opt out of union membership.
“Right-to-work and right-to-work zones are a favorite topic of, let’s be kind and call them right-wing thinkers. There are others that disagree with it. It all gets into economics, it gets into putting people to work. I’m for putting people to work,” Madigan said. “That’s the best thing we can do for the state. So am I going to reject it out of hand? No. Do I want to know more about the details? Yes. And we’ll take it with everything else that’s before the Legislature.”
Have a look at highlights from Madigan’s press conference. The full 15-minute session is in the final video. Are we headed to a new era of bipartisan cooperation or is Bruce Rauner about to get schooled in the art of negotiation, Springfield-style?
Madigan: I don’t agree with everything in the speech, but Rauner put a lot of time and effort into it.
Madigan: Rauner has a lot of strong views but nothing he said was a “non-starter:”
Here is Madigan’s complete press conference.
- Complete text of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 2015 State of the State Address
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