Illinois Ends Legislative Session Without Budget, Education Plan

(Photo: Joe Lewnard, Daily Herald)

(Photo: Joe Lewnard, Daily Herald)

The Chicago state Senate has rejected Gov. Bruce Rauner’s (R) and House Speaker Mike Madigan’s (D) request to pass a makeshift budget and has voted against a competing financial plan written by Democratic leaders.

Tina Sfondeles reports for the Chicago Sun-Times that there was not even a decision on how to fund K-12 education even after last-minute efforts by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton to pass legislation.

Cullerton’s plan would have raised funding for K-12 education across the state by $900 million and given $475 million more to Chicago Public Schools.

As the debate continued, House Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) expressed the terrible consequences of a budget not having been passed:

“Real people are going to suffer. Real people are going to die. This is a matter of life and death.”

Even so, Republicans maintained that the education bill was a “Chicago bailout.” The last day of the session set a dramatic example of an apparent financial meltdown that seems destined to continue. Meanwhile, universities and social services continue to struggle to stay viable.

There was a glimmer of hope when the Senate passed an education funding plan 37-19, but the bill failed badly in the House with a 24-92 vote.

Before the schools’ plan failed to pass, Senate Democrats voted against their own Democratic leaders’ budget plan 17-31. The plan would have funded schools and social services, but would have included a $7 billion shortage.

Cullerton told reporters that he was positive that he could get a temporary budget in a week’s time that would carry the state through to January. He even stated that he would work with the governor to ensure the budget would be signed by Rauner.

In the same amount of time that Illinois has failed to come up with a budget, several states nationwide have completed two budgets, reports Mike Riopell of the Daily Herald.

Rauner is blaming majority Democrats for not passing a balanced budget. Madigan and Cullerton insist that Rauner is placing schools, social services, and other state programs in harm’s way by advancing legislation that they insist is hurting the middle class.

The governor’s Budget Director Tim Nuding said the stopgap budget that Rauner initiated would have given schools funding and provided some services with funding, such as domestic violence shelters that have had no funding since the stalemate began.

But the House and Senate Democrats did not act on the plan on Tuesday, saying they would, however, continue to work until a resolution could be attained.

Pete Kalenik of Chicago shared his views on the state’s budget woes in an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune. He began by saying that Illinois lawmakers continue to debate whether or not to shift tax revenue to poverty-level communities from wealthier districts, as the governor hides in the shadow of the intricacies of funding education.

Kalenik added that Rauner seems to believe that children of veteran and military families are not deserving of the same level of resources as civilian families. Some of the areas affected most harshly by his public school funding proposal are areas around Rock Island Army Arsenal and the Navy’s Great Lakes training center.

Rauner’s plan also disproportionately harms minority communities in Chicago and East St. Louis. These areas are also highly concentrated with Illinois’ veteran population.

The writer, who is a soldier, adds that his military brothers and sisters are not serving their country to see any group be discriminated against, but especially not young people, minorities, or veterans.

“Never leave a fallen comrade is our ethos. As veterans, we expect our governor to extend the same ethos to our children. It is the least he can do in return for his freedom.”