Secretary of State Jesse White is suggesting ex-governors, including one who served time in prison, could help mediate an end to the budget impasse.
When asked about ways to break the budget stalemate, White suggested Rauner and the legislative leaders meet in a "smoke-filled room" along with three former governors: Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar, and the once-imprisoned George Ryan.
"When he was the governor of the state of Illinois, whenever there were problems, he was an architect when it came to sitting down and having a fruitful discussion about the best way to pass the budget and the best way to function in state government," White said.
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White was then asked whether Ryan's conviction on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and fraud makes it appropriate for him to be involved in budget discussions.
"That's OK, but we're not talking about corruption right now, we're talking about good government," White said.
When Gov. Bruce Rauner was asked Thursday about White's suggestion, his first reaction was to laugh.
"Uh, wow," Rauner said. "I'm not going to talk about the failures of the past that created this mess. I focus on the future, I don't live in the past. We've had failure in our elected government for decades. This mess didn't happen overnight, and what we're not going to do is reproduce the dynamic that created it."
Ryan has rarely appeared in public since his release from prison in 2013. At an event in Waukegan in October, he declined to offer any advice to Rauner on the budget impasse, saying "he's doing OK."
Edgar has been more vocal in criticizing Rauner's stance during the impasse, such as during an October lecture to political science students at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
"We can't hold the budget hostage for other issues," Edgar said in October. "Governor talks about economic turnaround, I think some of his proposals are good, but I think we have to set priorities and the priority, I believe, is the budget."
Rauner said Thursday that he and legislative leaders are scheduled to meet next week, their first since December.