Dozens of Illinois lawmakers plan to leave office - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Dozens of Illinois lawmakers plan to leave office

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SPRINGFIELD -- Dozens of Illinois lawmakers, more than 15 percent, either plan to leave or have already left the General Assembly amid a tense political climate. Some are stepping down due to advanced age while others are tired of taking heat over controversial votes.

A tax increase and later a vote to revamp school funding this summer ended the two-year budget gridlock, but for many lawmakers the pain had just begun. More than two dozen lawmakers, including high-profile names like former Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and No. 2 House Democrat Barbara Flynn Currie have either left the Capitol or plan to.

Southern Illinois representative Brandon Phelps resigned this month, blaming an eye injury he suffered hunting some years ago.

Phelps said he enjoyed the challenges of Springfield.

"I was very passionate about representing my constituents," Phelps said at a Saline County Democrats event this month. "I bled with them, I cried with them, I laughed with them and they mean everything to me."

John Jackson with SIU's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute believes Phelps' decision runs deeper.

"He has given one answer now and I think you'll have to watch and see what he does next to get a fuller picture of all of that," Jackson said.

Jackson also pointed to a more polarized political climate, growing over the last few decades. That's especially true in Illinois, where the fight between Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Mike Madigan has dominated headlines.

"The stalemate of the last 2 years has produced a particularly toxic climate in Springfield," Jackson said.

And he sees more fighting on the horizon.

"They need to be working on next year's budget already," Jackson said, adding that lawmakers typically have a budget blueprint hammered out by February. "June 30th, 2018 isn't that far away."

Some lawmakers may leave for offices elsewhere, including Attorney General now that Lisa Madigan has left he race. Jackson said House Minority Leader Jim Durkin may be pushed to run.

One thing is for certain, though: Come the next session, Springfield will have lots of new faces at the state capitol.

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