SPRINGFIELD — The first meeting in months between Gov. Bruce Rauner and top legislators ended with no sign that a record-breaking budget impasse is coming to an end.
In the aftermath of the much-ballyhooed 50-minute pow-wow Tuesday, Democratic and Republican leaders used words like "no movement" and "nothing's changed" to describe the closed-door conversation.
But the much-anticipated sit-down may have paved the way for more meetings between the first-year Republican governor and the longtime leaders of the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
"You always have to be hopeful," House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters afterward.
Tuesday's session was the brainchild of good government groups who called for a public meeting between the factions as a way to break a political stalemate that has left the state without a spending blueprint for six months.
The lack of a budget has left social service programs in limbo, universities without their state aid and cities and counties without cash to pay for road salt and other needed programs.
The session opened with public comments from each of the leaders but was soon closed to the public in order for the officials to negotiate behind closed doors in hopes of finding common ground.
The opening comments did little to set a tone of compromise, with Madigan saying Rauner's push to weaken union power would hurt the middle class.
"The solution to the budget deficit problem does not lie in the extreme," said Madigan, who acknowledged he spoke little during the closed-door part of the meeting.
"I learned a long time ago that when you talk you don't learn," Madigan said.
Rauner scoffed at the powerful Chicago Democrat, saying the problems ailing the state have been festering for years.
"It's not extreme," Rauner said. "Every idea we've been proposing has been done by other states."
Rauner wants Democrats to approve a handful of reforms he says will put Illinois on a track to economic growth. On Tuesday, he said he wants term limits, a nonpartisan process for redrawing political maps and property tax relief.
But as part of his push for property tax relief, he wants to give local governments and school districts the ability to opt out of certain collective bargaining rules, a move that Democrats say is a non-starter.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said it is more important to the stability of the state to get a spending plan in place.
"Not having a budget is not too business-friendly," Cullerton said. "We've got to get to work. I'm willing to start as soon as possible."
Madigan said term limits and redistricting reform are Republican campaign issues that the GOP wants to use to gin up support in the 2016 election.
But House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said voters sent a message when they elected Rauner as the first Republican governor in a dozen years.
"They want something different, and they want something now," Durkin said.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, also said Rauner's demands are not unusual.
"The changes being suggested are reasonable," Radogno said. They are not extreme."