PILSEN — Mayor Rahm Emanuel Thursday blasted Gov. Bruce Rauner as someone "congenitally incapable of saying yes" after another attempt to sell and replace the Thompson Center and replace it with a massive new office building fell apart amid a blaze of recriminations.
Emanuel said he agreed to back an effort to rush through changes to the rules that dictate the size of the building that could eventually replace the the three-decade-old state office building at 100 W. Randolph St. to allow a 2 million-square-foot office tower.
In return, Emanuel said he asked Rauner to sign a bill changing the way the city funds pensions for workers. The governor refused, Emanuel said Thursday afternoon at an event designed to tout a new program to expand the city's public art program.
"I think he is congenitally incapable of saying yes," Emanuel said, his voice rising in anger. "Politics is the art of the possible, and he is making everything impossible."
Rauner has already vetoed a bill that would allow the city use revenues from new taxes on cellphones to fund pensions while changing the rules for new workers and give Chicago officials more time to pay off pension debt.
A source in the governor's office said they refused to link the Thompson Center deal with the pension bill. Instead, Rauner's office urged Emanuel to get Senate Democrats to send him a bill designed to toughen penalties for those convicted of multiple gun crimes touted by Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson as a way to reduce the surge of violence on Chicago's South and West sides.
Emanuel said that was "absolutely not true."
The mayor and the governor have been at loggerheads over the Thompson Center for months.
In May, Emanuel said he would block the sale of the Thompson Center until he's certain that Chicago taxpayers won't get "stuck with the tab" for rebuilding the massive CTA station underneath the state building.
It could cost between $80 million to $120 million to rebuild the station, Emanuel said. State officials disputed that figure, calling it inflated.
Rauner's office hopes the sale will net the state $220 million — but that would require plans be approved for a massive tower, perhaps as tall as 115 stories.
Such a tall building would not be allowed under the current rules, giving aldermen and Emanuel — Democrats who have long been at odds with the Republican governor — a veto over the effort.
In response, Rauner said he would earmark the additional property tax revenue generated by the sale and replacement of the Thompson Center for Chicago schools — promising the cash-strapped district an additional $45 million a year through 2040.
Emanuel rejected that offer out of hand, calling it a political stunt.