- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - President Barack Obama will return to the Illinois Capitol next month, where the former state senator plans to speak to a deeply divided Legislature about working together to “build a better politics.”

Obama will be in Springfield on Feb. 10, according to an advisory Friday from a White House official. His visit will mark the ninth anniversary of when the then-U.S. senator announced he was entering the 2008 presidential race during an event outside the city’s historic Old State Capitol.

The president will discuss “what we can do, together, to build a better politics - one that reflects our better selves,” according to the advisory.

The Democrat spoke in his State of the Union speech earlier this month about the need to “fix our politics,” saying growing rancor was one of the few regrets of his presidency and that lawmakers must work to find areas of agreement.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said his former colleague’s words “struck a chord.”

“Clearly, that’s what we need here,” Cullerton said in an emailed statement. His office said the Chicago Democrat sent a letter to Obama former colleague on Jan. 19 - one week after Obama’s address - suggesting it was a good time to pay a visit.

It was unclear Friday if that invitation prompted Obama’s trip, which comes as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the Legislature are in a months-long stalemate over a state budget and pro-business legislation the governor is pushing.

Nearly eight months after the start of the fiscal year, Illinois still has no budget in place, leading to big cuts to higher education, social services and other areas.

Rauner said Friday he welcomes Obama’s visit.

“Despite our political differences, the President and I share a passion for improving education, especially for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, a belief in the benefits of term limits and redistricting reform for restoring good government, and a strong desire to see more economic opportunity for all Illinoisans,” Rauner said.

His office said the governor plans to invite Obama to join him for a beer at a local brewpub while he’s in town.

Obama served in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004.


Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed from Washington, D.C.

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