Chance to raise taxes no great reward for suburban Democrats

Suburban Democrats face a tough road closing budget gap

  • The fate of Gov. Bruce Rauner's agenda remains tied to the state budget impasse.

    The fate of Gov. Bruce Rauner's agenda remains tied to the state budget impasse. Mike Riopell | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted6/19/2015 5:30 AM

The chance to vote for higher taxes might not seem like a sweet political reward, and that could be one factor holding up budget talks as Illinois hurtles toward a possible government shutdown at the end of the month.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's willingness to talk about new taxes to help close Illinois' gaping budget hole comes with a big stipulation: Lawmakers have to approve parts of his pro-business agenda first.

 

Some suburban Democrats don't want the two tied together.

For one, approving some of the anti-union proposals Rauner is pushing would be distasteful to a lot of Democrats.

And even though some are open to new taxes to avoid budget cuts and head off a government shutdown, that's a politically difficult vote, too.

"Yes, it would be tough," state Rep. Deborah Conroy, a Villa Park Democrat, said. "You have to weigh your responsibility to the people you represent."

Conroy said she's talked to people who don't realize their state income tax rate dropped from 5 percent to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1. She said lawmakers should look at how much revenue would come in if the tax rate was raised to 4 percent or 4.5 percent, avoiding cuts to schools and programs for people with disabilities.

"To me, that's not being responsible," Conroy said.

Republicans argue Illinois elected Rauner to change things.

"They can raise taxes anytime they want," state Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, said of Democrats' Springfield majorities. "The governor ran on reform before revenue."

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It's all local

If July 1 arrives without a state budget in place, all kinds of programs could be in jeopardy, which explains a lot of the pressure.

Suburban Democrats could be particularly important to the debate over taxes, since opposition among many of them to keeping the 5 percent income tax is one of the reasons it died.

Those suburban Democrats would either have to go along with a new tax hike effort, or legislative leaders of both parties would have to work to find votes elsewhere.

The roots of today's gridlock are in last November's election.

Rauner won in the suburbs by big margins. But all the Democrats in hot suburban races won re-election, giving the party its big majorities in Springfield. And now here we are.

Voters "want shared or divided government," Sandack said.

Alzheimer's push

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, wants to hear from people who have cared for Alzheimer's patients and have had trouble with federal laws mandating privacy of health records.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It can sometimes be tough for caregivers to get medical information about their loved ones from doctors who don't want to break federal privacy rules, he said, causing problems even if everyone has good intentions.

That's behind Roskam's push, which for now is just intended to collect stories and brainstorm solutions.

Roskam, in a statement, said he hears "about the overwhelming difficulty associated with navigating HIPAA privacy restrictions, which can prevent caregivers from accessing a patient's medical records or treatment options."

People can share their stories at roskam.house.gov.

Roskam's representatives say the stories will be kept private, but they might contact people to learn more about their experiences.

DiCianni eyes 8th

Republican DuPage County Board member and former Elmhurst Mayor Peter DiCianni is considering a run for Congress.

DiCianni is eyeing the 8th Congressional District, the seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth.

He said he's not a formal candidate but is "considering a run."

Republican Andrew Straw has also shown an interest in the seat. And on the Democrats' side, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Hoffman Estates and state Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park are in the race, with state Sen. Mike Noland of Elgin also considering it.

Recount: Roskam wants to hear from Alzheimer's caregivers

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