Mailers fly over property tax vote; are budget talks 'over'?
Just days after a vote to freeze property taxes that Republicans decried as a stunt, Democrats sent mailers to some suburban voters criticizing GOP lawmakers for not supporting it.
On Tuesday, Republican leaders said the negotiating climate means the chances for a bipartisan budget could be "over."
"We're going to keep that open," House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, a Western Springs Republican, said. "Things can move very quickly. So we've got 11 days. But right now, the signal that I'm getting on the House floor is ... that it's over."
The Illinois House Friday debated a proposal from state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, that would freeze how much local governments can ask of taxpayers. Most Republicans voted "present" and argued the plan was hastily written and didn't match up with what Gov. Bruce Rauner is proposing.
By Monday, mailers criticizing state Rep. Sheri Jesiel's vote landed in some Lake County mailboxes. She said she voted "present" -- neither "yes" nor "no" -- because the plan was a political ploy.
"It's to put Republicans in the hot seat," the Winthrop Harbor Republican said.
"It's phony," she said.
The mailers went to the districts of at least two other Republicans, a spokeswoman said. They were paid for by the Democratic Party of Illinois.
Party chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman said Democrats are fighting back against TV ads and mailers from the conservative group Americans for Prosperity that have pushed for a property tax freeze. The ads have largely targeted suburban Democrats.
"That's just a front for the administration," Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said. "We're trying to inform the voters of what's going on down here."
The political fighting via mailboxes and TVs reflects the contentious battle that's ongoing over the state's finances as lawmakers face a deadline to finish a budget at the end of the month.
Democrats and Rauner have clashed over the governor's proposed budget cuts, and Republicans have stung Democrats over test votes and hearings they say are political games.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno joined Durkin in accusing Democrats of not being serious about negotiating a spending plan in working groups set up by Rauner.
"But in fact what has happened recently is attendance has become spotty," Radogno, of Lemont, said. "Things have been slow-walked. Things have been taken off the table."
A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, criticized Republicans' tone.
"It's counterproductive and raises questions about the true goal of the governor's secret meetings," spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said. "We have been fully engaged in the process and continue to hope that we can arrive at a balanced and bipartisan budget."