CHICAGO (CBS) — In a stunning development amid ongoing negotiations to end the budget crisis in Springfield, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno has announced she is stepping down July 1.
Radogno’s announcement came after a private meeting with GOP Senate colleagues, on the heels of a meeting of the four top state lawmakers at the Illinois State Capitol.
“I have really tried hard and it’s time for someone else to take the reins,” Radogno said at a news conference, adding she wants to travel with her husband and spend time with her five grandchildren.
She told reporters that the end of the fiscal year is a “natural break” to leave her position, despite the fact that leaders in the House and Senate have still failed to reach a budget deal. She said she would continue to work on a resolution through Friday.
The top Republican in the Illinois Senate since 2009, and a senator since 1997, represents parts of DuPage, Will, and Cook counties, Radogno was an author of the so-called “grand bargain” in the Senate, which got the ball rolling on months of budget talks this year, in hopes of ending a now two-year budget stalemate. The Illinois Senate approved a budget deal last month. Talks have continued in the House.
“I have done everything I can do to resolve the state’s budget crisis. I will continue to do so for the coming days. But if the solution will not come on my watch, I hope and pray that the Governor, other legislative leaders, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House can find a path to solve the state’s problems,” Radogno said earlier in a written statement.
Radogno said she is stepping down at the end of business on Saturday. Republican state senators said they already have begun the process of selecting Radgono’s successor as Senate Minority Leader.
It will be up to party leaders in Radogno’s district to appoint someone to fill her seat until the 2018 election.
“Though I leave political office with a sense of sadness and some disappointment, I leave with no regrets. I did my best – that’s all I could do. 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 said.
Meanwhile, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, later met with reporters to give an update on efforts to reach agreement on a state budget with Rauner and other Republicans.
“People have exchanged ideas on revenue for a long time,” Madigan told reporters late Thursday afternoon. “I think it’s fair to say that people understand the proposals, and I believe that they’d be prepared to support them.”
Under discussion: raising the state’s income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent.
Madigan says all that’s needed is for everyone to be reasonable.
“I don’t see that I am being unreasonable. I am here,” he said, citing workers’ compensation as an area in which he’s moved toward the governor. “I am proposing to vote for things that I don’t believe in. I don’t think the government should be about the business of reducing a benefit level for an injured worker. That’s not the right thing to do. But in the spirit of compromise, I am prepared to vote for that.”
While the state has had no budget for two years, the urgency now is the state’s credit rating is near junk. The governor has said the session will continue if the legislature does not deliver something he can sign by midnight.