CHICAGO (Reuters) - A war of words between Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel over which government is in the worst financial shape took a bizarre turn on Friday with the purchase of fish.
"I bought a gift for a special person," the Republican governor told reporters at a Chicago market. "I bought some fish...to send some dead fish to the mayor. I think he will deeply appreciate that as only he can."
Early in his political career, Emanuel once sent a message to a pollster via a dead fish. In Mafia lore, a sent dead fish signifies someone is sleeping with the fishes and no longer alive.
While Rauner acknowledged his fish plan was all in fun, he continued to criticize the mayor for pushing through a city budget this week with a record property tax hike, calling the move "a massive mistake" because it was not coupled with cost-saving reforms.
Emanuel on Wednesday blasted Rauner for opposing measures he needs from the state for the new budget, including a bill to shield lower-valued residential properties from the tax hike.
"It's a very strange economic strategy to try to hurt your economic engine to try to grow the economy," the mayor told reporters. "Name me a governor in the other 49 states that is attacking the economic engine of their state. Is Washington state going after Seattle?"
Rauner's pro-business reform agenda for the state has been met with opposition from Democrats who control the legislature and the two sides have yet to agree on a budget nearly five months into fiscal 2016.
Both Illinois and Chicago have severe financial problems stemming largely from unfunded pensions for their workers. Emanuel and Rauner have been close friends and even political allies, with Emanuel appointing Rauner as chairman of the city's tourism agency soon after he became mayor in 2011.
There was no immediate comment from Emanuel's office concerning the coming gift of fish.
(Reporting By Karen Pierog; Editing by Andrew Hay)