SPRINGFIELD – House Speaker Michael Madigan doesn’t make a lot of media appearances, but Monday morning he talked with student journalists who are covering the Statehouse in a graduate school program.
In his visit with the Public Affairs Reporting program class at the University of Illinois Springfield, Madigan (D-Chicago) said legislative committees in control of budget appropriations have taken Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed levels of spending in next year’s budget and “ratcheted them down” in case measures supporting that spending do not pass.
Those supporting measures include legalizing recreational marijuana and sports betting, which Madigan said he’s “hopeful” will pass but are “not guaranteed today,” although Pritzker is relying on them for more than $400 million in new revenue.
Long-awaited language for a marijuana bill was released Saturday. Madigan said that although he was not yet familiar with it, he does know “there are some very controversial aspects to the proposal,” including the expungement of criminal records and other provisions requested by caucuses representing minority interests. Those provisions consider giving a “leg up” to disadvantaged populations for getting licenses to cultivate and distribute marijuana.
“That language will be important in terms of finding 60 people to vote for the bill,” Madigan said.
On the other hand, Madigan said, passing sports betting will require the cooperation of many interests, including gaming CEOs, racetracks, video poker representatives and more.
“It’s always been very contentious,” he said. “It’s no different this time than any prior legislative session.”
Madigan also said he’d be “prepared to support” a casino in Chicago, either city-owned or private.
And while he fully supports Pritzker’s attempts to change the state’s income tax structure from a flat to a graduated rate, Madigan said the Senate moved too quickly when it debated for only 7 minutes Wednesday, May 1, before passing a bill and resolution that would put an amendment question on the 2020 ballot.
“It should not have gone that quick in the Senate,” he said, adding that the chamber should have given the debate “more time.”
“It’s not just a statute — it’s an amendment to the constitution,” Madigan said. “It goes right to the heart of how you finance state government…clearly something like that deserved more attention than it got.”
Nevertheless, he said he was “optimistic” the graduated tax measures will pass in the House.
Madigan’s comments may suggest a slower-than-expected pace for passing new legislation, despite Democrats being in control of the Legislature and governor’s office.
“Have you ever worked with Democrats?” he joked.
Of Republican lawmakers who have complained they are not being included in the legislative process, Madigan said they have a “pretty clear record of non-participation,” especially regarding the budget in recent years, but that he is “willing to work with them.”
Some of that cooperation could come on a comprehensive capital bill, to which House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has offered to lend some of his party’s votes, according to Madigan.
“I’d be interested to know what he thinks should be in the capital bill before he puts votes on it,” Madigan said.
Responding to a question about running for reelection in 2020, Madigan asked, “Why not?”