Amid an epic budget stalemate in Illinois, GOP state Senate leader Christine Radogno has announced her resignation, effective Saturday, a signal that the interminable impasse has taken its toll on key members of the General Assembly.
“I did my best, that’s all I could do,” Radogno said. “It has been a privilege to serve. But now I am looking forward to returning to private life and spending time with my family, especially my five grandchildren.”
Radogno was the co-architect, along with state Senate Democrat John Cullerton of the now-defunct, so-called ‘grand bargain,’ which was a major compromise effort to end the state’s budget crisis.
In a resignation address before reporters in Springfield on Thursday, Radogno said it was her hope that the grand bargain would pass out of the state Senate. It failed after GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner put the brakes on the legislative package, saying it didn’t go far enough.
Radogno, the first female legislative leader in Illinois history, was viewed as being pushed aside after that effort.
Radogno was long considered among the few leaders who could work toward compromise.
It was immediately unclear what effect the resignation would have on budget negotiations as lawmakers take part in an ongoing special legislative session. But it’s an undeniable blow to Rauner to lose a key agent in the talks at this stage.
If no compromise is reached by week’s end, Illinois will enter its third year without an operating budget, wreaking even more financial devastation on the state. Bond rating agencies have warned that if that happens, the state’s bond ratings would be downgraded to “junk” status. Multi-state lottery games have already abandoned Illinois and road construction projects were expected to come to a halt if there was no budget by Saturday. Non-profit social service agencies with state contracts have gone under in the last two years as Illinois headed toward a $16 billion bill backlog.
The Democratic-majority legislature and the Republican governor have been locked in a prolonged battle since Rauner took office in 2015. Rauner has demanded a series of policy changes as a condition of signing a budget. Democrats have resisted the changes, calling them anti-union and anti-middle class. Rauner most recently has demanded a four-year freeze on property taxes as part of a budget deal.
House GOP Leader Jim Durkin said he believes lawmakers may come up with a compromise before the next fiscal year.
“She made it clear that she will be leaving Saturday and she is 100 percent committed towards finding a compromise, I’m glad that she’s still with us to finish the job. She’s still the Republican leader until Saturday,” Durkin told POLITICO. “I believe that we are making progress by the moment, I believe that there is a collective willingness to reach a compromise. I’m cautiously optimistic that we can settle this by the close of business tomorrow, or the end of the day tomorrow. That is what my hope is.”
House Speaker Mike Madigan on Thursday praised Radogno’s career and her ability to compromise.
“She leaves with a reputation for hard work, honesty, integrity, forthrightness,” he said at a news conference in the Illinois Capitol.
“She was the one who first reached out to me to start the Senate effort to show that we could balance the budget,” Cullerton said on Thursday. “Frankly, this week’s leaders’ meetings wouldn’t be occurring if it wasn’t for her.”
Rauner’s office released a statement at the same time Radogno addressed the media.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to work alongside Leader Radogno these last two years as we continue to try to improve the lives of the people of Illinois,” Rauner said in a statement. “She is a consummate professional and public servant, who has championed fiscal responsibility and human services that help our most vulnerable residents. While she will be sorely missed, Diana [Rauner] and I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”
Originally posted on Politico