Despite new governor, Republicans still frustrated with budget process

Having their guy as governor has given Republicans more political power than in recent years, but recent test votes and hearings have left some GOP lawmakers with the same complaints about Democrats that come up regularly.

A parade of votes and hearings on facets of Gov. Bruce Rauner's agenda has prefaced the looming two weeks lawmakers have before their yearly budget deadline.

But Republicans have argued those proposals haven't matched with Rauner's and are Democrats' attempts to cause problems for the governor.

"I'm sick and tired of the games that are being played on the floor," state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, said. "On the floor we have less than two weeks left, and we need to solve this budget crisis without raising taxes."

Rauner will eventually have veto powers to change the state budget, but Democrats have shown during the past week that they still control the House and Senate and inevitably have the power to send the governor a spending plan whether the GOP signs on or not.

The weeks of the debate set the stage for weeks, or months, of possible fighting over the budget.

Last year, Republicans criticized Democrats for voting on test budget proposals before revenue numbers were figured out.

State Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, said legislative leaders don't often loop in rank-and-file Democrats, either.

"I have to deal with my reality," she said.

She compared last week's ill-fated votes on a property tax freeze and right-to-work law to the House's 2013 method of putting together a law that allowed people to carry concealed handguns in public. In that case, lawmakers took test votes on a handful of specific exemptions in the law to see which ones would have support in the end.

Votes on parts of Rauner's agenda could serve the same purpose.

"These are already concepts that people have heard about." Sente said.

This week, House Speaker Michael Madigan could call for a vote on a constitutional amendment that would add a 3 percent tax to incomes over $1 million. There wasn't enough support for the plan last year, and the lineup of House Democrats hasn't changed.

State Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton Republican, said that a more serious discussion on the state's budget needs to happen, and she said last week's House vote on a property tax freeze was just for show.

"We knew from the beginning that bill was designed to fail," Ives said. "So we're tired of the games quite frankly, but this is some sort of negotiated leverage deal happening at a higher level than I know."

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