Speaker Michael Madigan


Legislative leaders say there’s a sense of optimism about budget negotiations, but with new demands from Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan and Friday’s budget deadline approaching, it’s unclear if all sides will agree on a spending plan before the new fiscal year begins Saturday.

Leaders from both parties met Sunday, the fifth day of the special session called by Gov. Bruce Rauner and only five days before the Friday budget deadline. On the table is a spending plan that relies on at least $5 billion in tax increases in exchange for various GOP-backed reforms of pensions, workers compensation and other items.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, offered up new demands from Democrats, including passage of an education funding reform measure that Republicans say is a bailout of Chicago Public Schools.

“No. 1, I expect the governor to sign Senate Bill 1, which changes the school aid formula,” Madigan said. “No. 2, I expect the governor to sign a bill that would provide for regulations of rates by workers’ compensation insurance companies.”

Rauner, other Republicans and manufacturing groups have called rate regulation of insurance companies on workers’ compensation matters “fake reform” that will not decrease costs to employers. Illinois businesses and manufacturers pay the highest workers’ comp costs in the Midwest and among the highest in the nation. GOP lawmakers have their own workers compensation reform measure pending that analysts say would save about $130 million a year.

For his third demand, Madigan said he wants Rauner to sign legislation that would require him to follow procurement code in his attempt to expand Medicaid managed care.

During an interview with reporters after the leaders meeting, Madigan also said the GOP’s push to tie property tax relief and other reforms to tax increases is part of an “extreme right-wing agenda.”

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said that doesn’t help those trying to reduce Illinois’ highest-in-the nation property taxes. Durkin said property tax relief must be part of the equation.

Durkin also told reporters that Madigan’s demands are a sign of movement and Republicans will continue to be flexible, even though a group of House Republicans say they can’t support tax increases.

Regardless, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said the meetings are a positive move.

“To the extent that there’s communication and bipartisan communication is a good thing,” she said.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said he hopes for more meetings.

“We’re going to go back and do some work within our own caucuses and then we’ll come back and have another meeting,” Cullerton said.

Durkin demanded to meet separately with Madigan and said House Democrats need to produce a budget plan, which they still have not done.

The next fiscal year begins July 1. The special session resumes Monday.