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Doug Finke

Statehouse Insider: Now it’s Gov. Rauner who axes meeting

Who says nothing new is coming out of those meetings between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders?

There was a whole new twist last week. A meeting that had been scheduled was rather abruptly canceled. But this time, it wasn't House Speaker Michael Madigan backing out because of a scheduling conflict.

No, this time it was Rauner who pulled the plug. His reason? He wants a budget outline from Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, and one wasn't coming, so he torpedoed the meeting.

As you might imagine, the Republican leaders who are loathe to criticize Rauner apparently agreed with the decision because they issued no statements of outrage over this canceled meeting, as they did when Madigan was a no-show.

The initial reaction from Madigan's camp essentially was that it is the governor's responsibility to introduce a budget, not theirs. That's true, but the Democrats could also put together a budget outline that mirrors Rauner's past efforts – something billions of dollars out of balance with no realistic proposal for closing the hole.

If nothing else, it would be fun to listen to whatever arguments Republicans come up with to assert that the Democrats' unbalanced outline is worse than Rauner's unbalanced outline.

Lighting the way

By the way, the Christmas lights are up on the Capitol dome and lit.

You may recall that last year, the lights were in jeopardy because the state's budget impasse left Secretary of State Jesse White’s office scrambling to save money. It decided one way to do that was to scrap the holiday lights, which were salvaged when several labor unions said they would cover the cost.

White's office said the stopgap budget now in effect allowed the lights to go up this year. The stopgap ends Dec. 31, so it's a good thing the Capitol isn't decorated for other holidays.

No bonus for you

It appears that now is not a good time for a state worker to expect a bonus payment from the state.

As you no doubt recall, the Rauner administration announced a few weeks ago a plan to give $1,000 bonuses to the "vast majority" of state workers who missed a minimal number of work days in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016.

The administration said the bonuses were made possible by the ruling that contract talks with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union were at an impasse. Thus, the administration could impose its contract terms, be they good or bad in the eyes of the union.

Those bonuses were announced before AFSCME went to court to block the administration from unilaterally imposing its contract terms. A circuit court has temporarily sided with AFSCME. The administration then said OK, no bonuses.

That was for union employees. Back in October, the Rauner administration announced it was handing out $3,000 bonuses to about 1,100 non-union workers who were making less than $100,000 as of July 1. The administration said those workers hadn't seen a raise in years and all of them were found to be doing exceptional work.

Last week, though, newly installed Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a Democrat, said those bonuses will only go out the door when the state has the money to pay for them. In order words, like state lawmaker salaries that are being paid months late, the bonus payments won't get priority over other state expenses that have been in line longer.

So first the bonus for union workers goes pffft, and then the one for non-union workers is delayed. Seems to cover it all.

Blago plus 8

Friday marked the 8-year anniversary of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s arrest by the FBI.

For some reason, that whole episode, the arrest followed by Blago's impeachment, seems like it happened so much longer ago.

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