SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — The highly anticipated, publicly monitored budget summit among Illinois' feuding leaders should be — mostly — closed to the public, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Friday.
In a late-afternoon letter to legislative leaders the first-year Republican, locked in an 18-week budget battle with Democrats who control the General Assembly, proposed a hybrid version of what was initially pitched as a meeting open to the public.
He even took the liberty of suggesting talking points to each of the legislative chiefs, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat who had proposed the conference be open.
Rauner proposed the assembly be in the governor's Capitol office and that opening speeches — but not nitty-gritty negotiations — be in front of rolling video and hot microphones.
"The people of Illinois deserve to hear our negotiating positions in a dignified and respectful manner — uninterrupted and unfiltered," Rauner said. "At the
same time, I acknowledge the bipartisan concerns we've received about allowing this meeting to become political theater rather than constructive negotiation."
Rauner said he would make opening remarks followed by 10-minute orations by Madigan, Chicago Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont and GOP House Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs.
"While you can discuss any issues you'd like, I suggest it may be most productive for each leader to use their 10 minutes on the issues about which they feel most passionately," Rauner said, proposing that Madigan address "balancing the budget with specific additional taxes."
Madigan has preached settling on a budget — which should have taken effect July 1 — and that while he supports spending cuts, additional revenue, likely through a tax increase, is necessary. Rauner won't talk spending plan until lawmakers approve his ideas for improving the business climate with restrictions on union power and political reforms such as term limits.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said he had not seen the letter and would not comment Friday evening.
Radogno spokeswoman Patty Schuh said Rauner "has taken a reasonable approach" to bring the bickering sides together. Radogno "looks forward to the opportunity to share her perspective and hear from the governor and other leaders on how we can work together to find solutions to the state's challenges," she said.
Good government groups offered last month to host a meeting for the state's top politicians, who haven't met all together since May. Madigan quickly said he was in and proposed it be public. Rauner finally agreed but said he would host it and plan the agenda.
Business leaders weighed in Thursday, saying an open forum would not produce results because publicity would discourage participants from speaking frankly.