Legislators Quit In Frustration After Budget Battle

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Springfield budget battle took a toll not only on taxpayers, but also on lawmakers.

CBS 2’s Political Reporter Derrick Blakley says 11 legislators are calling it quits, including six Republicans, and examines the reasons behind the exodus.

Mike Fortner, a six-term Republican State Representative, says he’s not moving on because of gridlock. But he is one of 15 Republicans who voted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget veto — with the state facing $15 billion in unpaid bills.

“I know that debt is going to have to be paid. Those are services rendered,” Fortner said. “And the taxpayers are going to have to pay that. It’s one of those ‘pay me now or pay me later situations.'”

But Barb Wheeler, who’s also walking away, says those Republican defectors — like Fortner — wiped out Rauner’s leverage.

“That’s why I felt that strong betrayal. We were so close to getting real compromise in a budget that was so desperately needed. And our own members had cut that conversation short,” she said.

The fallout reflects severe fault lines among Illinois Republicans.

Christine Radogno, former Senate minority leader, quit after Gov. Rauner scuttled a budget compromise she sought for months.

This frustration was echoed by downstate Republican Rep. Chad Hays, who’s also quitting. Hays said, “The current dislike between the governor and the speaker has paralyzed government in Illinois — voices of moderation and reason are increasingly elbowed out by well-financed fringe elements.”

Another reason Wheeler’s leaving: She’s lost hope for Rauner shaking up Springfield, saying, “I’m not optimistic towards further reforms during his tenure.”

With a lack of GOP reforms so far, Wheeler said she believes Rauner will face significant headwinds in his re-election bid. Furthermore, she said she expects, in a non-Presidential year, Republicans will face losses nationally, as well.

But Fortner says he will support Rauner if Democrats attempt to override the school funding veto — and some Republicans who defected on the budget are expected to do the same.

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