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Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016 12:20 am

New year, new attitude

PHOTO BY ALAN SOLOMON/TNS
“He has taught us how to deal with him,” explained one top official in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration when asked why the governor has once again cranked up his public criticism of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

You may already know that the governor blasted both Madigan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel during an appearance on Dan Proft’s WIND Chicago radio program last week.

After accusing Mayor Emanuel of being “afraid” to take on Madigan, Rauner said the reason for this was self evident: “The Speaker has been the most powerful politician in the state of Illinois for decades. It’s the main reason we’re in such big trouble as a state.”

Rauner went on to essentially blame Illinois’ “long-term, slow death spiral” on Madigan and said the majority party “likes the status quo,” claiming the House Speaker is “not sensitive” to the real-world problems of the middle class. “He’s got a great system, he controls it. And right now they’re unwilling to change. And without change, we’ll never get a true balanced budget.”

So, what the heck happened here? The governor seemed to mute his criticisms of Madigan in the closing weeks of 2015, even mostly holding his fire when Madigan skipped the last leaders’ meeting just before the holidays.

New year, new attitude, apparently.

The governor has reportedly come to the conclusion that Madigan is not now and may never be willing to negotiate in good faith. Rauner’s basically tired of negotiating against himself – pulling ideas off the table and never seeing any corresponding movement from the other side.

And he’s not completely wrong, either – at least about the negotiating part.

Madigan’s fellow Democrat Senate President John Cullerton has been trying to find a way to give the Republican Rauner some victories on things like workers’ compensation reform and local government costs. There was, for instance, reportedly more progress on workers’ comp during that non-Madigan leaders’ meeting last month.

And Cullerton is reportedly eyeing a recommended compromise from the Illinois Municipal League on binding arbitration for local governments. The idea would allow arbitrators to take into account a government’s fiscal condition when deciding a case. They can’t do that now, so even if their compromise is a ruling forcing the existing status quo on the two sides, that might still be far too costly for a government that has found itself in a fiscal hole.

But Madigan is said to want no part of even this smallish proposal.

Madigan has raised truly gigantic amounts of money from labor unions in the past few months. Those unions are allowed to give the same amount again after the March 15 primary, and Madigan will need all the cash he can stockpile for the fall campaign.

So, angering the unions before Madigan’s position is secure appears unlikely.

OK, so why did the governor throw his longtime friend Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel under the bus last week?

The mayor had apparently indicated to Rauner that he would act as a go-between in the governmental impasse and try to convince Madigan to find a way to compromise.

The governor has complained for months that Emanuel is privately saying one thing to him and publicly saying another. And now the governor is convinced that Emanuel has taken sides. The mayor is “hiding behind the Speaker,” the governor told Proft.

And then he piled on Emanuel, calling the mayor’s public comments about opposing a federal investigation into the city’s legal department “incredibly disappointing.”

“How tone deaf can you be?” Rauner asked rhetorically about a mayor already under intense fire for not doing enough to reform the police department and then turning a blind eye after a federal judge rebuked five lawyers in that office in the past year for withholding evidence in two police misconduct cases, according to the Chicago Tribune.

In other words, he’s attempting to punish the mayor for siding with Madigan and punishing Madigan for not cooperating.

Will it work? Doubtful, but it’ll help him feel better, for sure, and lock down his base’s support. The governor isn’t exactly a popular guy in the city, and Emanuel has effectively pivoted back on Rauner in public, blaming him for the impasse and accusing him of using the city’s public school students as pawns in an unwinnable game.

As for Madigan, his people firmly believe that Rauner has lost the match and has yet to realize it. So, expect them to wait Rauner out, at least for now.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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