CHICAGO – Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno – who unsuccessfully sought to end the state’s budget crisis by joining forces with the Senate president on the so called “grand bargain” package -- will step down from the Senate on Saturday.
The announcement came Thursday. The impact of the news on ongoing negotiations over how to resolve a two-year-old budget impasse by Friday evening and avert a fall into junk bond territory was uncertain.
Radongo, from the Chicago suburb of Lemont, enjoyed a reputation as a fair and responsible leader who was willing to negotiate across the aisle and amenable to compromise, something she was accustomed to in a chamber where Democrats enjoy a three-fifths supermajority.
“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.
“I have particularly enjoyed my friendship and working relationship with Senate President John Cullerton that began the day we were chosen as leaders of our respective caucuses,” she continued. “However, I believe it’s time for a new Senate Republican leader.”
Radogno called for compromise on the state’s fiscal mess.
“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.
Radogno’s resignation as Senate leader and senator from the state’s 41st district takes effect at the close of business on July 1. A new leader was not announced.
In a statement, Gov. Bruce Rauner said: “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. She is a consummate professional and public servant, who has championed fiscal responsibility and human services that help our most vulnerable residents.”
Cullerton called it an honor to have worked with his GOP counterpart. “It has been nine years of cooperation and professionalism,” he said. “She was the one who first reached out to me to start the Senate effort to show that we could balance the budget. Frankly, this week’s leaders meetings wouldn’t be occurring if it wasn’t for her. I will miss her camaraderie and common sense. But I also hope that she has a few tricks left up her sleeve before July 1 to help us finally get out of this mess.”
Speculation began circulating earlier this year that Radogno would retire and the talk grew in recent days.
Radogno has faced an arduous 2017. She found herself in a difficult spot as negotiations began to falter on the “grand bargain.” The package contained spending for the remainder of fiscal 2017, authorized new casinos, cash flow borrowing, pension changes, and other policy changes demanded by Rauner in exchange for his support for tax hikes to balance the budget.
Democrats accused Rauner of sabotaging the plan by moving the goal posts on various items and most of the measures eventually cleared the Senate solely with Democratic votes with Radogno often voting present.
Radogno, 64, has held her Senate seat since 1997. She was elevated to minority leader in 2009, becoming the first woman leader of a caucus. Before entering politics, she worked as a social worker. Her political career began as a village of LaGrange trustee. Radogno is considered a state budget expert and was a key figure in the worker’s compensation negotiations that led to the previously approved reforms.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said after a leaders' meeting Thursday he intends to bring the House Democrats’ proposed budget plan to the floor for a vote Friday. A revenue package to support it is still being negotiated.