Democrats have been privately grumbling for a while now that Governor Bruce Rauner isn’t truly interested in good-faith negotiations on a balanced budget with economic reforms to end the two-and-a-half-year Statehouse stalemate.

But Senate President John Cullerton spent days and days negotiating the details of a four-year property-tax freeze with Rauner, only to have his spokesperson tell me last week that he hadn’t acceded to Rauner’s demand for a four-year freeze. So Rauner isn’t the only one to blame.

The thin-skinned Statehouse partisanship of the past two-plus years last week infected the annual fundraising gala of the Illinois Conference of Women Legislators (COWL).

COWL is a bipartisan organization that raises money every year to “assist mature women who wish to continue their undergraduate education,” according to its Web site. “The goal of the scholarship is to focus on deserving, qualified women whose educations were interrupted due to family concerns and economic problems,” the group says. Women who have shown “leadership promise through community service” are given preference.

Anyway, it’s a good organization and it’s one of two events that I never miss each year – the other one being the House-versus-Senate softball game. Both events allow legislators to do things together without partisan or leadership barriers. They help build relationships and trust. Plus, they’re both a lot of fun. And after two and a half years of watching politicians fight each other to a draw on a state budget and economic reforms, we all need the occasional good time.

In normal times, a 40-minute late-April meeting to talk about the budget between a governor and the House speaker would be so routine that it would likely go unnoticed by pretty much everyone under the Statehouse dome. These ain’t normal times.

A funded, full-year state budget has not passed during a spring legislative session since 2013, almost exactly four years ago. We’ve had partial-year or “stopgap” budgets ever since.

And House Speaker Michael Madigan hasn’t formally met with the governor since December 6, about five months ago. Governor Bruce Rauner announced at the time there would be no more similar meetings until the Democrats were prepared to offer up a balanced budget with specific reforms – something that the governor hasn’t done since, either.

You might have heard about a recent Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll that found that Governor Bruce Rauner’s job disapproval ratings have almost doubled in the past two years, from 31 percent in March 2015 to 58 percent this month. According to the poll, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s current disapproval rating is 61 percent, about the same as his 63-percent disapproval rating last October. Rauner’s disapproval rating last October was 55 percent.

During this long governmental impasse, Madigan has championed the cause of unions and working people against the governor’s attempts to take rights and benefits away from them. But the Democrat is actually underwater with union members. According to the Simon poll, 55 percent of respondents who said they belong to a union disapprove of Madigan’s job performance, including 38 percent who strongly disapprove. Just 34 percent of union members approve of his job performance, while only 12 percent strongly approve. All this pain and they still don’t like him.

But union members dislike the governor far more. The poll found that 72 percent of union members disapprove of Rauner’s job performance, and half of union members strongly disapprove. Only 24 percent approve. On Rauner, anyway, the union message has gotten out.

Question the timing all you want, but last week’s legal filing by Attorney General Lisa Madigan to stop paying state-employee wages without an official appropriation is long overdue and is completely consistent with a 2016 Illinois Supreme Court ruling and with her (and the governor’s) opposition to a lawsuit brought by social-service providers.

If I had to choose a word to describe the Democrats’ nominating speeches for House Speaker Michael Madigan’s re-election last week, it would be either “defensive” or “joyless.”

The speeches seemed directly aimed at Madigan’s toughest critics – and there are plenty of those out there. The nominators at times angrily justified their own votes for Madigan and their continued willingness to support him while under siege by a hostile kabillionaire governor and much of the state’s media. They literally cannot go anywhere without being asked about why they continue to back Madigan.

Governor Bruce Rauner was asked last month by a Chicago TV reporter if he planned to run for re-election. Rauner said he wasn’t focused on such things.

Three days later, Rauner contributed $50-million to his own campaign fund.

Top folks in the governor’s office said they didn’t quite understand last week why the Senate Democrats and the spokesperson for House Speaker Michael Madigan were so upset with them about canceling last Thursday’s leaders meeting to discuss ending the long Statehouse impasse and finishing up a budget.

I think on August 19 a new and brief window of opportunity opened that might finally help wrap up this long and drawn-out state-legislative overtime session.

But that window will only be open for 15 calendar days - the time the state Constitution gives each legislative chamber to vote on a veto override.

Allow me to explain.

I spoke with some Rauner folks last week and, man, are they ever on the warpath about the Senate's August 19 override of the governor's veto of the AFSCME bill - legislation that would prevent a strike by or lockout of state workers and would instead require binding arbitration after an impasse is reached. The House has 15 days from that date to take its own action.

Even though AFSCME has never invoked its binding-arbitration power with state corrections officers (who cannot strike by law), the governor and his people clearly see this bill as an intrusion on executive-branch powers.

House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters earlier this month that he'd had a "frank discussion" with Governor Bruce Rauner, "and I gave him good, solid advice."

Word is that advice had two parts.

First, the governor needs to find a way to get himself out of this long overtime-session, no-state-budget mess.

Second, if the governor thinks he can get himself out of this mess by somehow breaking the speaker's will, he's mistaken.

But the governor isn't giving up. In fact, he's doubled down.

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