Special Session Day 3: Education funding bill sets up another tax increase, lawmaker warns


Monday is shaping up to be the day in the battle over a state education funding reform bill that one lawmaker says will result in more tax increases. That’s when Senate President John Cullerton says he will finally send Gov. Bruce Rauner an education funding measure that also bails out Chicago Public Schools’ pensions.

For the third consecutive day Friday, lawmakers in the House and the Senate adjourned their special sessions just minutes after convening, taking no action.

Rauner on Friday again criticized Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan for holding up Senate Bill 1, the education bill that would create an evidence-based model for school funding as well as send CPS an additional $215 million in state taxpayer money annually to pay down its critically underfunded pension system.

“Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton continue to delay putting the education funding legislation on my desk,” Rauner said in a statement Friday of SB1, which was approved on a partisan vote back in May. “Until then, I am unable to change the legislation so that it’s fair and equitable for all schoolchildren in Illinois and the taxpayers who foot the bill.”

Rauner says he will veto the legislation to strip it of the CPS pension bailout, but he can’t do that until Cullerton sends it to him. Cullerton said he will send it to Rauner Monday, two months to the day when it received final approval of the General Assembly. Rauner said he will file an a mendotary veto 

“Our schools cannot wait. If the Democrat majority won’t send me the bill, I’m hopeful they’re willing to negotiate with their colleagues to achieve the same result by July 31,” Rauner said. “I have asked key Republican lawmakers to reach out to their Democrat colleagues to negotiate in good faith so an alternative can be presented by July 31. If a reasonable compromise that is in the best interest of our children isn’t reached, I will move forward with my amendatory veto on Monday as planned.”

Complicating the standoff is a “poison pill” that Madigan inserted in a separate budget bill approved earlier this month that requires an evidence-based funding formula like the one in SB1 to be put in place before Illinois schools receive any state funding this year. If SB1 doesn’t pass, schools don’t get their state funding for this fiscal year.

Many school districts across Illinois are scheduled to open the week of Aug. 14. While most Illinois schools will be able to open on time because they have enough funding in reserve without new state appropriations, some schools in the worst fiscal condition are in danger of not opening or at least not staying open for long without additional state money.

“Well I sure hope we open schools,” Rep. Lou Lang, D-Chicago, said after the House adjourned for the weekend. “Some schools in the state will open for a few months without state money, some may open all year. Some won’t open at all.”

Lang blamed Rauner for the standoff, claiming the governor has been unwilling to meet with Democrat leaders to negotiation a deal.

In a statement Friday from Senate Republican Leader-Designee Bill Brady and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, the two lawmakers said Rauner asked them to negotiate with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

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“At the Governor’s request, we have asked Sens. Jason Barickman and Dan McConchie and Reps. Avery Bourne and Bob Pritchard to reach out to their Democrat colleagues on a school funding reform plan that treats all school districts in Illinois fairly and equitably,” the statement said. “Our schools cannot wait any longer, we must act now.”  

State Rep. David McSweeney said he blames the ongoing standoff in part on Republican lawmakers who bucked Rauner and voted with Democrats earlier this month to override the governor’s vetoes of $5 billion in tax increases and the budget bills that contain the poison pill.

“The people to blame for this are the 10 Republicans who voted for the Madigan tax increase and the budget,” McSweeney said Friday. “Did they not read the bill that education funding was going be held hostage before they voted to override? Because they voted for that plan, they need to explain why they would put us in this position right now that our school children don’t know if their schools will open.”

McSweeney also noted that in 10 years, Senate Bill 1 will have the state spending $3.5 billion more annually without any spending reform.

“There’s no property tax relief. There’ no requirement to cut administrative costs in schools, which is necessary,” he said. “There’s nothing to encourage consolidation. It’s setting up the next tax increase.”

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