Will Special Session Yield Stopgap Budget, Education Deal?

The state of Illinois is a mere days away from passing the one-year mark without a state budget in place. Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers on Monday expressed optimism that there could be a deal by a special session scheduled for Wednesday. But other sources indicate that special session could come and go with both sides disagreeing over how much money to give Chicago Public Schools.

The good news for social service providers is that both the governor and Democrats say there is agreement on a partial year budget – a stopgap that would get the state through January.

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It would also restore partial funding that social service agencies missed out on last year. The not-so-good news is that there is no agreement on how to fund K-12 education. Rauner has proposed $200 million more for education statewide. But Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan’s top lieutenant Monday said Democrats will only agree if there is more funding than that.

“The governor’s proposed second-round budget – his first-round budget was totally inadequate – his second-round budget isn’t much better,” Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie said. “Not only Chicago, but school districts across the state are looking for more: $200 million does not cut it. This is not just a Chicago issue.”

Rauner says he won’t go for higher levels, and he believes Democrats are holding the state hostage to CPS.

“They’ve basically threatened to hold up the entire funding process, the budget process, for a bailout of CPS,” Rauner said at a news conference in the State Capitol. “That is not fair to the taxpayers around the state of Illinois. People across the state should not be held up with their tax money to go bail out Chicago Public Schools.”

Most lawmakers “Chicago Tonight” spoke with believe it is unlikely that anything will pass both chambers and get to the governor’s desk during Wednesday’s special session, except for possible a transportation funding bill.

That means the state will enter year two without a budget in place and without any agreed upon funding for public schools. The other thought is that House or Senate Democrats will propose a K-12 funding bill that has a lot more money for all schools, including around $400 million more for CPS. The purpose here would be to get Republicans on board and then, perhaps, dare Rauner to veto the spending plan or reduce it.

Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel implored leaders to vote on that bill that would provide more money for Chicago and other school districts.

“You’re penalizing poor kids, kids of color, across the state of Illinois,” Emanuel said. “We have to end a broken education formula that makes Illinois dead last in the nation. Taxpayers, teachers and students of the city of Chicago are tired of bailing out the rest of the state and the rest of the taxpayers.”

Emanuel’s characterization of a “bailout” refers to the fact that Chicago taxpayers pay both their teacher pension costs and downstate teacher pension costs.

Meanwhile, the governor says he has proposed a leaders' meeting for Tuesday either in Springfield or Chicago to hash these differences out before lawmakers go to Springfield on Wednesday.

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

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