It has looked to me for a very long time that House Speaker Michael Madigan has been waiting for an existential state crisis to force Governor Bruce Rauner to back away from his anti-union, pro-business Turnaround Agenda so they can pass a “clean” state budget.

We saw some examples last week of why school-funding reform is so difficult to accomplish in Illinois.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin appeared with Governor Bruce Rauner at Lyons Township High School, which is in Durkin’s district. Durkin pointed out to reporters that the school would lose $1.9 million in state funding under the controversial school-funding-reform bill of Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

Leader Durkin also claimed that every school district in his House district would lose funding with Manar’s proposal. Chicago, he noted, would gain hundreds of millions of dollars. Durkin declared that he and his members could not and would not support a plan that shoveled big-time bucks at Chicago while cutting their own districts.

But that’s really the whole point of Manar’s plan. He wants to shift state funding from wealthier suburban districts such as those Durkin represents (14.2 percent of Lyons Township High School students are from low-income households) to districts that have high numbers of impoverished students (86 percent of Chicago Public Schools students are from low-income households). Manar wants a “hold harmless” provision to make sure no district loses money right away, but that’ll cost quite a bit of cash – which the state doesn’t currently have.

Durkin represents half of Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno’s district, so convincing both of those chamber leaders to sign off on a plan that takes state money away from their own schools is just as difficult as convincing the two Chicago Democrats who head up the House and Senate to agree to Rauner’s K-12 funding proposal that would reduce Chicago’s annual appropriation by $74 million.

Like I said, this ain’t easy.

With yet another poll showing plunging Downstate support for Governor Bruce Rauner in a Republican district and the intense Republican freakout over Donald Trump’s impending presidential nomination and its impact on independent suburban women, there appears to be a growing feeling among Democrats, particularly in the Illinois Senate, that they need to get out of the way to let the other party crash and burn.

The almost year-long state-government impasse is most definitely having an impact on Rauner’s poll numbers. Bernie Schoenburg reported in the State Journal-Register last week that a Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll of appointed Republican state Representative Sara Wojcicki Jimenez’s Springfield-area district had Rauner upside down, with 37 percent approving of the way the governor is doing his job and 54 percent disapproving. Rauner won that district 58-37 in 2014, according to Illinois Election Data’s numbers. Basically Rauner’s numbers have flipped almost entirely.

Theresa Mah (D-Chicago) was never given much of a chance at winning the 2nd House District Democratic primary race on March 15 against a well-known political name who had a huge demographic advantage.

Mah was vying to be the first Asian-American legislator in state history. But the 2nd District was purposely drawn to include Chinatown to give Asian Americans only some “influence” in the district. In previous years, Chinatown and Asian-American neighborhoods were sliced up between several legislative districts, but the Democrats made a conscious decision to avoid a federal lawsuit against their map by creating an “influencer” district.

The census numbers show the 2nd has an Asian-American voting-age population of 23.5 percent, vastly smaller than the 53-percent Latino population. And the organization of Representative Eddie Acevedo (D-Chicago) had put another Asian American on the ballot to further muddy things on behalf of Acevedo’s son Alex, who was vying to replace him. But that put-up candidate was kicked off the ballot on February 1, and things went rapidly downhill from there.

A blog post appears to have helped at least temporarily break the long stalemate at the Illinois Statehouse.

Representative Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) wrote up a story, and I posted it on my CaptiolFax.com blog on April 18 about a way to provide some funding for higher education. Universities and community colleges haven’t received a dollar from the state since June because the government has no budget. Some are on the verge of actually going under.

Fortner’s idea wasn’t new. Some other folks, particularly at the endangered Eastern Illinois University, have been saying for a while now that money is just sitting in a state account and isn’t being used for its intended purpose. Budget negotiators have also been eying the fund.

But, for whatever reason, Fortner’s proposal took off like a rocket. It probably helped that the Republican legislator devised the plan with a Democrat from the Senate, Pat McGuire of Joliet.

“The governor has linked things together,” Senate President John Cullerton said at a speech to the City Club of Chicago back in January. “We don’t have a budget because he’s got his Turnaround Agenda. So I can link things together, too.”

Cullerton was referring to his threat to not pass any funding for K-12 education until school-funding reform is addressed. Despite being repeatedly blasted by the governor and the Senate Republican leader for planning to hold schools “hostage” to “bail out” Chicago’s school system with his funding-reform plan, Cullerton has not publicly backed down from his statement.

And I happen to believe that Cullerton’s direct and deliberate threat, perhaps more than anything else, has pushed Statehouse types to try to reach a conclusion to this long, crazy impasse.

Governor Bruce Rauner has hit a brick wall attempting to convince House Speaker Michael Madigan to come to the negotiating table to talk about ending the long governmental impasse and then working out a budget deal. So after holding numerous public appearances to demand a sit-down, Rauner shifted gears last week when the two Republican legislative leaders trotted out a new spending plan to provide $1.3 billion to fund human services and other programs.

The proposal would partly be funded with some pension reforms that Republicans claim will save $780 million. The reforms include some accounting changes and pushing off pension costs to local schools and to higher-education institutions for salaries above $180,000 a year. But there are relatively few employees making more than $180K a year, and the $780 million is about a third of the state’s annual “normal costs” for pensions, so it seems somewhat difficult to believe that these savings are actually as high as billed.

And even if the money is real, the $1.3-billion GOP proposal is significantly smaller than either appropriations bill passed by the legislature’s Democratic majorities. The Senate Democrats’ spending plan was pegged at about $3.8 billion, with half of that ($1.9 billion) going to social services.

Still, the bill could very well generate some interest among rank-and-file Democrats worried about the implosion of the state’s social safety net as a possible next step in the negotiating process. For instance, the legislation appropriates more than $10 million for the Adult Redeploy program, which diverts nonviolent offenders from prison terms. That money would come from the General Revenue Fund, but the legislation also uses money from special state funds to pay for programs popular with Democrats that aren’t currently being funded by the state, like homeless-youth services.

It’s almost impossible to make a deal with somebody who won’t accept reality. And that’s been the case in Illinois for more than a year, as Governor Bruce Rauner has made one politically unrealistic demand after another while refusing to negotiate a budget until those demands are met, all the while blaming the entire impasse on the intransigence of House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Because the public debate is so wrapped up in partisanship and ideology, it’s been tough for a large segment of the population to wrap its collective mind around what’s really been going on. Many see this fight as the “new, good” Rauner versus the “old, bad” Madigan. While that argument certainly has plenty of merit, it’s not nearly the entire story.

It takes two to tango, and the truth is and has always been that Rauner doesn’t even have enthusiastic support among legislative Republicans for a big chunk of his Turnaround Agenda, particularly those demands opposed by labor unions. His complete agenda cannot pass both legislative chambers no matter who the House speaker is.

After what happened the day after the March primary election, however, Rauner’s obvious inability to accept some stark political realities might finally help more folks understand what the rest of us have been seeing for the past year or more.

“He was a god in that district,” a high-level Rauner guy told me about state Senator Sam McCann’s poll numbers from before this year’s Republican-primary campaign began.

Benchmark polling taken months ago showed McCann (R-Plainview) had a voter-approval rating of about 70 percent. McCann “really was everywhere” in the Downstate district, attending events all over the place throughout his tenure, the Rauner official admitted.

Looking at those initial numbers, “you’d have to be crazy” to take McCann on, the official said. But the governor had threatened to punish any Republican who voted with AFSCME on a now-infamous bill that would have barred a state-employee strike and instead forced binding arbitration. McCann was the only Republican to vote against Rauner, so a massive game plan was devised.

What followed was the most expensive Republican legislative-primary race in the history of Illinois. In the past, the million dollars or so raised and spent by and on behalf of McCann would’ve dropped jaws everywhere. But McCann’s million was less than a quarter of the race’s $4.2-million grand total.

Even so, McCann defeated his Rauner-backed opponent, Bryce Benton, by more than 5 points.

Illinois Republicans have long complained that House Speaker Michael Madigan’s campaign organization doesn’t just beat you; it destroys you. Madigan doesn’t set out to merely win; he wants to make sure he doesn’t ever have to deal with you again.

Madigan’s own Democratic primary race was a good example. He posted yard signs all over his district urging his constituents to vote against “convicted felon Jason Gonzales,” and his cable-TV and direct-mail ads ceaselessly pounded home that very same message. His captains also reportedly had volunteers holding those signs at the entrance to voting locations.

Gonzales is, indeed, a convicted felon. But that happened two decades ago, and he was pardoned by former Democratic Governor Pat Quinn. To hear the Madigan campaign tell it, however, you’d think the guy just walked out of prison.

Or take a look at what Madigan did to Katelyn Hotle. The House speaker’s operation dropped at least nine negative mailers on the little-known, lightly funded candidate in the Quad Cities-area Democratic primary to replace retiring state Representative Pat Verschoore (D-Milan). The gist of the attacks was that Hotle, a Rock Island city-council member, profited personally from her shoddy government service, but none of it was true.

They also smeared Hotle in the media for being a “plant” of Governor Bruce Rauner. Why? The only real explanation is that she was the lone female in a four-way primary, so she could do well on demographics alone and they had to take her out. For good.

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