Illinois House GOP Leader: Democrats ‘Still Reeling’ After Election
The top Illinois House Republican claimed “tension is a lot stronger” in Springfield since the election, in part because Democrats are upset Republicans picked up seats.
In November, the Republicans gained six statehouse seats, enough to take away Democrats’ supermajority in the House, but not enough to win a majority in either the House or Senate.
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Wednesday he thinks the victories are “absolutely” a factor in the state budget stalemate.
“For many years, Republicans have been pushed around,” Durkin said. “We’ve been defeated, outspent -- grossly outspent -- for many, many years. Republicans gave them ... a taste of their own medicine last November, and I think that they’re still reeling over it.”
Steve Brown, a spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, countered that the change in tone is because of the Republican Party’s attack campaign -- even after the election.
Since the election, Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, was approached on camera outside the state capitol and asked if he would vote to reelect Madigan as House Speaker. The Republican Party has also started publicly attacking J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic billionaire investor who is reportedly considering a run for Illinois governor.
“The change in tone is due to the uninterrupted campaign rhetoric that we listened to for over two years,” Brown said. “That fills everybody with the expectation that if there were some kind of a budget agreement ... once a vote was taken, there would be a never-ending series of attack ads. Robocalls, dark money, (and) character assassination sponsored by Governor (Bruce) Rauner.”
Hanging in the balance is state money for Illinois’ public universities and social services. At the end of December, the state government will stop those payments unless lawmakers and the governor sign off on a budget deal.
Last year, when there was no state budget, judges mandated the state continue to fund certain services, such as foster care, Medicaid and employee salaries.
Even with the Dec. 31 budget deadline approaching, top Democrats and Republicans have not met for negotiations for a week.
Durkin criticized Democrats for slowing down budget talks, but acknowledged compromises over major deals in Springfield tend to be struck in the final hours before a deadline. He said he is not making any New Year’s plans to be available for last-minute negotiations.
“We’re basically just running in quicksand,” Durkin said. “If you want to do it right, and if it’s going to be a bipartisan solution, it’s time to engage. It’s time to include us in what their priorities and thoughts are of where we should go with this budget.”
Democrats have said negotiations have broken down because Rauner is tying his political agenda to a state budget. That agenda includes term limits for lawmakers and a property tax freeze, which Democrats say includes anti-union measures.
Republicans have said Democrats should present their budget proposals, while Democrats claim it is the role of the governor to introduce a budget.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him at @tonyjarnold.