If you go by how many times House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) repeated his points, it sounds as if the most important things to remember from the State of the State speech are: there must be revenue, not just cutting, to try to fix the current budget situation; the governor would find enough support in the House for another income tax increase, were he to seek one; and nothing can be off the table.
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Madigan sounded like a seasoned negotiator in a 20-minute session with reporters, unusual in that the speaker had such a session at all. Madigan, who reminded everyone of his relationship with Gov. Bruce Rauner before he sought public office, said lawmakers and the governor must all keep an open mind.
He also dropped this nugget: he broached the subject of another income tax hike to Rauner as recently as a week to 10 days ago: “His statement at the time was that it should stay at the rate it is today; that is, don't extend the income tax hike that was done in January of ’11,” Madigan said.
That’s when the legislature increased the state’s flat income tax from 3 to 5 percent, to recede to 3.75 percent this year.
Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the only of the four legislative leaders who did not submit to a question-and-answer in the Capitol’s news conference room, quipped after the speech that he did not have time to enumerate all of the governor’s “perceptions of the state which might not be accurate.” Cullerton’s office issued a statement later saying Rauner “squandered” his State of the State opportunity with “campaign rhetoric that denigrates the reputation of the state.”
As for the Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) were pleased to finally have a governor from their own party give the speech. That has not happened since 2002.
State workers, facing what could be called anti-union sentiment from Rauner in the days leading up to the address, may be wondering how committed Rauner is to their cause. They may have to get used to having their cheese moved.
“The fact of the matter is: other states have made changes … and it’s made a difference for them,” said Radogno. “We will have a robust discussion, no question about it.”
The governor returns to the House chamber Feb. 18 for the budget message.