Gov. Rauner fired off yet another round of complaints at House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd), blaming him for the budget stalemate that is now in its 10th month.
However, one local legislator is tired of hearing the governor targeting Madigan as the main culprit behind the budget impasse.
“The governor's voice is lurking in the newspapers and on TV,” said state Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st), whose district includes Oak Lawn. “He complains about the Democrats and the Speaker instead of negotiating.
“If the governor keeps moving the goal posts, we can't get anything done,” added Flowers. “The governor is trying to destroy education. How are we supposed to get along? How are we supposed to work together? This is not a dictatorship.”
Legislators went back to work last week where some bills were initiated. During the recess, Rauner said that Madigan has not contacted him or attempted to offer any proposals to end the budget stalemate. Following Rauner’s criticisms of Madigan, Senate Democrats introduced a school funding bill on April 6 that would redistribute funds from wealthier districts to poorer communities. The measure would take place over four years.
Rauner has not ruled against the most recent measure that was introduced by state Sen Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill). The governor said that the state’s current funding relies too much on local property taxes to fund schools. He said that state money should be provided evenly for lower-income districts and rural areas.
Manar’s plan is supposed to cost about $600 million. During the first year, $400 million will be provided to make sure that school districts don’t lose money. Manar’s bill would offer $200 million for the state to pay Chicago teacher pensions.
The bill is actually an amendment to Senate Bill 231. The language is based on a bipartisan report two years ago. While Rauner has not ruled against Manar’s bill, the $3.8 billion funding bill passed by Senate Democrats last month has not persuaded the governor. Republicans were also not in agreement. Democrats used their majority to pass the bill by a 39-18 margin. The vote had already cleared the House.
The proposal would allow for about $1.9 billion to colleges and universities that have not received funding since this budget lockdown started. Before the vote, Republicans called the bill irrelevant because it provides no funding to be put in the bill.
State Senate Republicans are calling on Democrats to support the governor’s proposal to fund elementary and secondary education. Senate Leader Christine Radogno (R-41st) said Rauner’s proposed increase of $55 million will meet the recommended per-student spending of just over $6,000 annually. The unveiled $1.3 billion budget spending plan introduced on April 7 would provide services and other programs to those who have struggled during this budget deadlock, according to Radogno.
But Radogno said the reforms would affect the retirement funds for teachers at local high school districts and public universities. Rauner’s plan would cease salary hikes for school officials who are near retirement. Pension costs of employees making more than $180,000 to a local school district would be deferred. Radogno said that the extra cost would have to be picked up by the universities.
Radogno discussed the budget impasse during a speech recently to the City Club of Chicago. A budget without the governor’s agenda, a budget passed only by Democrats, or no budget at all is not acceptable, according to Radogno. But she added that Democrats have to get on board.
“The only out for Illinois is option four, and that is real engagement from the Democrats, even though that means the status quo is going to change,” Radogno said.
While some Democratic and Republican legislators have been talking, Flowers said that the governor’s insistence on all aspects of this “turnaround agenda” bring negotiations to a halt.
“If we ever do get together, Rauner is going to protect his friends,” said Flowers. “Until everybody truly has some skin in the game, nothing is going to happen.”
Flowers said instead the governor, with the assistance of Democrats and Republicans, should be providing more jobs and coming up with innovative ways to provide health care for residents of all ages. The local legislator said it is time for the governor to get serious in negotiations.
“The vast majority of my political life I have worked for Republican governors,” said Flowers, who was elected in 1984 and began serving in 1985. “This governor has no institutional history. He is going by sound bites. Let’s move forward, governor. I’m going to stay the course. When the governor wants to talk to us, we will listen.”