Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner gave no signs of giving ground in his budget fight with legislative Democrats in a visit to the Quad-Cities on Monday.
Rauner toured an elementary school, stopped by a restaurant and talked with workers and others at a Rock Island bakery. He downplayed any hopes that a public bargaining session with legislative leaders would amount to much, and he said it is "critical" that the scope of collective bargaining with unions be narrowed.
"We're fighting hard. We're staying strong. We're going to get it done — I'm hoping by January," Rauner said at the Hill & Valley Premium Bakery.
The governor's visit comes in the fourth month of a budget impasse and as pressure builds to end the stalemate.
A little more than a week ago, former Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican, said the budget shouldn't be held "hostage" to reforms.
Asked about Edgar's comments on Monday, Rauner said that he was not criticizing "decisions in the past that have caused our mess" but would instead look to the future.
The governor also sought to dash the notion that he's not talking with legislative leaders.
Last week, several groups asked that the leaders and Rauner meet, which prompted House Speaker Mike Madigan to suggest that it be public. Rauner responded that his office would organize a Nov. 18 meeting.
The governor said Monday that he has had continuous talks with leaders and that he has committed to a public meeting. But he added that he didn't think it would result in much.
"I don’t think they’re going to offer compromises or creative solutions in front of a media negotiation," he said. "I just don’t think that’s likely. But we can get issues on the table. We can have a good conversation."
The governor toured Ridgewood Elementary School and Glenview Middle School in East Moline, telling students he was working to improve education and the economy.
The state teachers union has been critical of Rauner's reform agenda, but the governor was especially solicitous of teachers at the schools, asking in three of the four classes he visited that students give their instructors a round of applause.
"I love teachers," he said.
At the bakery, where he was given a pumpkin pie, Rauner continued to push for changes to the state's workers' compensation system and the ability of local governments to narrow the scope of bargaining with public unions, which he called "critical."
Rauner said the state has fewer net jobs than it did 16 years ago.
One of the people at the bakery was Angie Kendall, director of development and communications for the Child Abuse Council. She asked what organizations such as hers can do to continue operating in the absence of a budget.
A large part of the group's budget comes from the state, and last week, officials there said some of its programs are on a month-to-month basis.
Rauner referred her to staffers, who he said are working with agencies deal with the situation.
"We have to be cautiously optimistic," Kendall said afterward, adding their clients need them.
Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Galesburg, who was at the bakery, said that he didn't think the impasse would end before January and that what's happening now shouldn't be a surprise.
"He was elected by the people with pretty strong support. He ran on an agenda of shaking Springfield up," said Moffitt, who plans to retire at the end of his term. "We shouldn't be surprised at anything that's happened so far. Gov. Rauner is keeping his commitment, he's keeping his promise. And he is shaking things up."