CHICAGO (AP) — The public spat between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reached a new level Friday, as the mayor said the Republican should stop name-calling and "do your job" and Rauner responded with plans to send the Democrat a "dead fish."
The two lawmakers — who have previously worked and vacationed together and describe themselves as friends — have been in a back-and-forth over a months-long state budget impasse, city finances and Rauner's push to curb public-employee union influence.
Rauner's office on Thursday criticized Emanuel for pushing through a record property tax increase and asking Springfield for financial help while being unwilling to back Rauner's legislative agenda, including letting local governments opt out of collective bargaining with public-employee unions.
On Friday, Emanuel fired back.
"I would just say this to the governor and the governor's office: You're 120 days behind budget, $6 billion and counting in not paying bills," Emanuel said. "Stop name-calling and just do your job."
Hours later Rauner walked into a local meat market in Chicago for a press event and — after picking up some pork chops and a beef tenderloin — asked the owner if he also sold fish. The governor bought a $4.87 frozen tuna steak, which he proudly displayed to reporters, saying he planned to send it to Emanuel.
The gesture — which Rauner described as being "in fun" — is a reference to Emanuel once famously sending a dead fish to a pollster who'd made him angry.
"I think he will deeply appreciate that, as only he can," Rauner said.
Some people have speculated that because of their prior relationship — and Chicago's need for help from Springfield in paying its pensions — the mayor could help broker a budget deal between Rauner and Democrats who control the Legislature.
But if such talks are happening the two are not letting on. Rauner said they had spoken as recently as a few days ago, but he said Emanuel isn't helping to push his priorities.
Rauner also said "there's some hiding, dodging" by Emanuel regarding collective bargaining. He said Chicago officials have successfully removed items from bargaining in the past, but won't support letting other communities do so under a Rauner administration.
Emanuel has said the changes Rauner wants would hurt working families. His office didn't respond to a request for comment following Rauner's Friday remarks.
Rauner and Democrats in the General Assembly have been deadlocked over the budget for the July 1 fiscal year. The governor said he won't support a tax increase to close a multibillion-dollar budget hole until he gets some of his agenda passed. Democratic leaders, such as Emanuel, say his proposals are non-starters.