With the fall veto session weeks away, Gov. Bruce Rauner says he hopes the Republican caucus “stays strong,” allowing his vetoes to withstand attempts by Democrats to override. Angry over Rauner’s signing of a controversial abortion bill, a retiring GOP lawmaker responded to Rauner’s hopes, saying, “We’re all free agents now.”
When asked Thursday about a potential override of his veto on a ban of local right-to-work laws, Rauner said that he hopes both the Democrat and GOP caucuses see the importance of local control to businesses and allow his veto to stand.
“Unfortunately for Illinois, there are thousands of companies that won’t look at a state with a closed-shop position, and we’d like to compete for those,” he said. “I hope the General Assembly stays strong and votes to have local control.”
Retiring state Rep. Barb Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, said Rauner’s signing of a bill expanding public funds to pay for abortions after pledging a veto was enough for her and many others to write off the freshman governor completely.
“Quite frankly, it makes us all free agents in regards to what happens in the veto session,” she said. “This veto session is going to be very different than what he probably could have expected had he stayed with us when we asked him to.”
Wheeler thinks Republicans should take little stock in Rauner’s wishes in respect to the coming veto overrides.
“They should represent their district, not taking into consideration what the will or want is of the governor,” she said.
The abortion funding bill and other spending concessions, including talk of sending state funds to assist in the construction of the Obama Presidential Center, Wheeler said, doesn’t look like the record of a fiscal conservative.
“Even though he’s all about not being for the tax hike, he’s sure spending like a drunken sailor,” she said.
Wheeler, however, is speaking as someone who is not running for re-election in 2018. Others looking to stay in office have taken a more conciliatory tone, if they speak at all.
“With some of the most recent bills being signed, I think you’ve seen the division coming up,” said state Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville. “We’ll just have to see how well we stick together.”
Of the 15 Republicans to vote in favor of state income and corporate income tax hikes this July, Davidsmeyer is one of just a handful to be seeking re-election. Rauner vetoed those tax hikes but the legislature overrode him.
“If you let hard feelings and frustration get in the way of those things that we still have to work on, you’re not moving the state forward,” said Sheri Jesiel, R-Gurnee. “But if you have a high-profile vote that puts people in a different position, I don’t know how it’ll end up. I really don’t.”
GOP leadership in the state House and Senate have said their members will still be unified moving forward.