Governor Bruce Rauner says lawmakers are putting politics ahead of student needs as the debate on how to fund higher education continues. The Republican governor on Monday criticized Democratic leaders, saying bills to fund higher education and pension reform are being ignored in Springfield in order to create a crisis for political gain as the March 15 primary elections approach.
“Speaker (Michael) Madigan doesn’t care about that. He’s not trying to drive a result … to help students,” Rauner said. “He wants a message that we have a crisis, the crisis won’t go away, and it’s Gov. Rauner who won’t solve the problem. He’s spinning this for the primary election process.”
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Madigan Spokesman Steve Brow spokesman for said the governor seems “irrational” and added Madigan’s office is working to find votes to override Rauner’s “bungled” veto of a Democratic-backed bill to provide funding for MAP grants and community colleges.
The governor also said he and Senate President John Cullerton had agreed on pension reform, including the governor willingness to sign pension legislation drafted by Cullerton.
But the governor now says Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, is backing away and becoming unwilling to publicly support bipartisan legislation.
“And you know what the President Cullerton said to me in private? He said, ‘Bruce, I’ve lived in … (Speaker Madigan’s) shadow for 37 years. I’m not going to step out now.’
“Can you believe that?” said Rauner. “You wonder why Illinois is in such deep yogurt, ladies and gentlemen?”
In a statement Monday, Cullerton said he is “not going to dignify that with a comment” and added, “Could we please get back to governing?”
Rauner also said university presidents are being instructed not to support funding legislation unless it has Madigan’s backing.
“Folks at Northeastern Illinois University said they had been instructed never to step out and support any legislation that hadn’t either been proposed by Speaker Madigan’s office or that had come out of one of the legislative committees that the speaker controls,” Rauner said.
A representative of Northeastern Illinois University disagreed, saying the university has “received no instructions on any topic from Speaker Michael Madigan or his office. We have guidance from our board of trustees that Northeastern should remain neutral on any legislation, at least until a bill is assigned to a committee.”