Official or political, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's message in the Quad-Cities on Monday was much the same as it was when he was here last week: It's mostly House Democrats who are standing in the way of resolving the state's financial woes.
The governor made a stop Monday at the iWireless Center in Moline to speak to members of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce. Rauner praised Senate Democrats, even more so than last week, and said they want a balanced budget and a deal to end the two-year old budget impasse.
"I applaud them for that," he said. "I'm cheering for them."
Rauner has long focused on House Speaker Mike Madigan for much of what is wrong in Springfield. He didn't as harshly take on the Democratic leader as in the past, but the point was the same. He said there is "real reluctance to do anything."
Steve Brown, a spokesman for Madigan, responded by questioning Monday whether Rauner wants a deal himself. He accused him of derailing a deal in the Senate and said that Madigan is open to a deal but that it must be "balanced."
The governor's stop Monday was his second in the Quad-Cities in less a week. This one was an official visit. Last Tuesday, Rauner was in Rock Island for what he described as a political event — not paid for with taxpayer funds.
Critics called the visit last week the unofficial kickoff of his 2018 campaign. Rauner denied that, saying he was simply trying to communicate with Illinoisans. But whether it was this week or last, Rauner emphasized changing the political equation in Springfield.
"The biggest thing you all can do is reach out to members of the ... House Democratic caucus," Rauner told the chamber members.
In fact, there is only one Democrat left in the Illinois Quad-City House delegation: Rep. Mike Halpin, of Rock Island. Democrat Mike Smiddy was ousted last election, with Rauner supplying much of the money to target him.
Before Rauner's visit Monday, about 100 people gathered outside the iWireless Center to protest him. Many were from area labor unions.
A succession of speakers accused the governor of being dictatorial and failing to negotiate in good faith. They said schools, human service agencies and working people have been hurt by the impasse and, in a common refrain, they repeatedly told him to "do your job."
One speaker, Carlene Erno, a state worker and Quad-City area union leader, chided Rauner for recent television ads paid for by a group allied with him. "Quit spending money on stupid commercials, wearing flannel and holding duct tape," said Erno, president of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Local 2615. "Do your job."
In addition to the Quad-Cities, Rauner also was making a stop in Peoria on Monday.