NEW: Stopgap spending bill passed, signed

NEW: Stopgap spending bill passed, signed

UPDATED 8:45 p.m. Thursday

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers approved what is primarily a short-term spending plan Thursday, although one of the people who negotiated it — Gov. Bruce Rauner — declined to even call it a budget.

But Rauner did sign the spending bill (SB 2047) early Thursday evening, about four hours after the Senate approved it.

"This is not a budget. This is not a balanced budget. This is not a solution to our long-term challenges," Rauner said after the House and Senate each overwhelmingly approved the so-called stopgap spending plan. "This is a bridge to reform. That's what this is."

It provides a full year's budget for preschool through high school education and for road construction, but every other part of state government, including higher education, receives only six months' worth of funding.

The chief sponsor of the bill in the House, state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said the spending plan "is meant to keep the lights on."

But it does boost elementary and secondary education substantially, keeps road construction projects going, ensures that cash-strapped public colleges and universities will open for the fall semester and gives some measure of funds to social service agencies.

"Schools need to open their doors on time this fall," said Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign. "It was important that all levels of government, regardless of any political party, find a way to work together to reach a compromise. We can't risk our children's future for the sake of political games."

Elementary and secondary education receives $524 million more in this budget than in the one for the fiscal year that ended Thursday. No school district in the state would receive less money this year than last, lawmakers said, and an additional $250 million would be made available to districts with high levels of poverty.

Bennett said four large school districts in Champaign and Vermilion counties would get an additional $4 million out of the budget deal: $1.49 million to Danville schools, $864,435 to Champaign schools, $629,035 to schools in Urbana and $503,931 to the Rantoul City Schools district.

The state will fully fund the education foundation level for the first time in seven years, legislators noted.

"Every school district was between 92 and 96 percent of the foundation level last year," said state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin. "Before that it was as low as 84 percent, so with schools getting 100 percent of the foundation level, that's a positive situation."

The spending deal also gives more money to the financially troubled Chicago Public School system, but requires a $250 million increase in local property taxes to help cover teacher pension costs. A side agreement would give CPS a one-time grant of $215 million for pension costs, but only if the Democratic-controlled Legislature acts on a broad pension reform bill for state employees, teachers, university employees, judges and the General Assembly.

"This is good news for taxpayers who will see their schools open on time without being on the hook for a Chicago bailout," said Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington. "And this will give us time to reform the way we fund schools so that all Illinois students will have the best chance for success in our global economy."

Higher education gets about $1 billion out of the budget deal, added to about $600 million approved earlier this year in a separate agreement. The University of Illinois would get about $380 million under the agreement, according to Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who was a member of the budget working group that negotiated higher-education spending.

Included in the higher-education portion is $151 million for the MAP program — financial aid to low-income students — that will be used to reimburse colleges and universities that covered MAP costs in the spring semester.

There's also $38.9 million in the capital spending part of the budget to complete construction projects at the Lincoln's Challenge Academy in Rantoul, an Illinois National Guard facility for high school dropouts.

Rauner and legislators hailed the spirit of cooperation that led to the spending agreement.

"With our state being held hostage for more than a year by lawmakers pushing reckless agendas, I have been utterly infuriated," said state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana. "It is truly about time that we see some legitimate compromise in our legislative chamber, because the people that feel the brunt of this impasse are our seniors, disabled children, students, and working families that rely the most on our government to do what is right.

"This budget agreement is beyond overdue," said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. "But this proves good things can happen when everyone works together. It may not be the perfect plan, but it's an affordable and responsible plan that helps our state and the people we serve."

Rauner thanked Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel "for showing some flexibility and creativity in the negotiations."

He did not mention House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who earlier had told his House colleagues that passage of a budget was "our most important job, not other agendas that hurt the middle class," a reference to Rauner's Turnaround Agenda proposals.

 

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BruckJr wrote on June 30, 2016 at 1:06 pm

I see lots of increased spending but no increased revenue.  I guess that's the Illinois way.  Will our grandchildren be responsible for finally paying the bills or, perhaps, the tooth fairy?

Sid Saltfork wrote on June 30, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Rauner has stated privately, but not publically, that he would be in favor of the "temporary tax" being re-instated.  He, also, is in favor of the state's share of sales taxes increasing, and taxing retirees on fixed incomes.  He wants to have it presented to him by the legislature.  Why wait over politics?  He could present that now, and see what happens in the legislature.  He has been lame in presenting budgets as required of governors. 

There has been no discussion of his demands for his "turn-around" agenda of no unions, no renewal for grants to assist the elderly, the poor, the disabled, and the ill,  He still demands it.  Sure, some grant money would be released in a deal today; but nothing to the amount needed across the state.  It was just sugar added to the lemonade. 

Rauner could still veto all of the bills that include the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, and social service grants.  It is the last minute so it would be doubtful he would veto anything that would affect his re-election campaign,

Don't get excited about today's deal if there is one.  It is happening because neither of the only two parties don't want to be blamed for the children not returning to school on time.  It will be a benefit to those middle-class families with two working parents.  Additional child care costs will be avoided.  The losers are the working poor families who do not have the financial resources for child care.  There will be no grant money for child care vendors.  Maybe, more churches will open their doors for voluntary child car to the working poor.