New legislature, same old problem in Illinois: No budget

Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois.

Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ Illinois’ financial crisis is being handed off from one set of lawmakers to another this week _ a problem that, at 18 months, is the nation’s long-running budget stalemate.

The key players: The conservative businessman-turned-governor Bruce Rauner and Michael Madigan, the old-school Democratic House speaker whose decades at the helm has made him a Capitol institution.

The General Assembly being sworn in Wednesday is the 100th, a historic one marking the Prairie State’s 2018 bicentennial. It has a steep climb ahead, although the Senate broke away this week with its own proposed solution to pulling the state out of billions of dollars of debt, restoring for thousands of vendors the ability to make payroll and returning social service programs to more than a million people.

But Rauner and Madigan remain so entrenched in their positions and some think the matter will not be resolved before the 2018 election, when voters have another crack at naming the governor.

Here’s a look back at the beginning of the debacle and what might happen next:

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THE GENESIS

The seeds of the battle were sown when Rauner, a wealthy private investor, began campaigning across the state in 2013, bucking a left-leaning, union-friendly electorate which hasn’t voted for a GOP presidential candidate since 1988.

He pledged to open up the hood of government and retool its engine _ at extreme cost, if necessary.

In a March 2013 speech, he invoked former President Ronald Reagan’s dismissal of striking air traffic controllers as a model for working government.

“Sort of have to do a do-over and shut things down for a little while,” Rauner said.

But he stepped into the Statehouse just as the House and Senate elected near-historic Democratic majorities and ran head-on into Madigan, who began his career helping write the state’s current Constitution and has served in the House since President Richard Nixon’s first term. After ruling as House speaker for 32 of the past 34 years, he’s gotten used to winning.