5 Things to Know as Lawmakers Return to Springfield for Special Legislative Session | NBC Chicago
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5 Things to Know as Lawmakers Return to Springfield for Special Legislative Session

Illinois lawmakers returned to Springfield Wednesday for a special legislative session. They will likely vote on funding for education and a stopgap for essential government services, like higher education and social services.

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    Illinois lawmakers returned to Springfield Wednesday for a special legislative session that could have big impacts on the state's ongoing budget crisis. Mary Ann Ahern reports. (Published Wednesday, June 29, 2016)

    Illinois lawmakers returned to Springfield Wednesday for a special legislative session that could have big impacts on the state's ongoing budget crisis. 

    Lawmakers will likely vote on funding for education and a stopgap for essential government services, like higher education and social services, which could be in trouble as the state approaches its second fiscal year with no budget. If a deal isn't reached, schools may not open and services could shut down after July 1.

    Both Republicans and Democrats are introducing proposals while party leaders continue to meet with the governor about a potential compromise.

    Here are five things to know heading into the special legislative session:

    1. Party leaders are working on a compromise with the governor

    Party leaders have been working with Gov. Bruce Rauner to devise a compromise to fund K-12 education and other essential government services.

    On Tuesday, lawmakers met for three hours in a meeting that House Speaker Mike Madigan called “productive.”

    House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said “it was a good discussion,” but “caution is always in order.”

    Lawmakers met again on Wednesday morning for less than an hour. Senate President John Cullerton was also cautiously optimistic about the outlook during a break.

    “We’re continuing to negotiate with the governor,” Cullerton said outside of the governor’s office. “People are making offers and counter offers and we look forward to continuing this morning to try to come up with a solution.”

    Cullerton noted that this was the first time this sort of negotiation had taken place. The meeting is ongoing.

    2. Republicans are set to introduce funding bills Wednesday

    Rauner released details about his revamped funding plan for K-12 education and other essential government services Tuesday. The governor shifted his attention to stopgap funding after lawmakers failed to pass a budget before the end of the spring legislative session last month.

    Durkin and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno filed the measures Tuesday. The identical bills will be introduced the the House and Senate simultaneously.

    The plan would fund K-12 for the full year with a funding increase of $240 million. All told, schools would receive $7 billion.

    A “hold harmless” clause, which gives all school districts as much money as they received the previous year, is included in the education funding bill.

    This means that, under Rauner’s plan, CPS would see neither an increase or decrease in its funding -- a stark contrast to the increase Democrats have proposed.

    Rauner has repeatedly spoken out against a “bailout of CPS."

    “I have said it before, and I say it again today: we must not bail out a broken system that refuses to change the way it does business,” Rauner said in a statement Tuesday. “Forcing Illinois to raise its income tax to bail out CPS is fundamentally unfair to our school children, parents, homeowners and small business owners across the state.”

    The Republican plan also includes a bill to fund the state’s essential services through the end of the year. This includes health and human services, higher education and state-operate facilities, like prisons.

    Under the plan, higher education would receive $1 billion, critical state government operations would receive $454 million and human services would receive $650 million.

    In total, the package includes $50.3 billion in funding for fiscal year 2017, as well as $25 billion to shore up fiscal year 2016.

    3. Democrats plan to introduce their own bills.

    An alternate proposal drafted by Democrats will also introduce bills to fund education and state services.

    The plan is broken up into five separate bills. The bills would individually fund: P-12 education, state operations, higher education, human services and highway construction.

    The education bill would increase funding for schools by $760 million. It would increase CPS’ funding by $286 million and give the district $112 million for pension payments.

    However, the plan notes that there is “no Chicago bailout included."

    The plan would also appropriate $680 million for state operational costs, $1 billion for higher education funding and $650 million to health and human services providers who are not being paid by consent decrees while the state operates without a budget.

    4. There’s still no official, balanced budget in sight

    Lawmakers left Springfield at the end of May without passing a budget for the state. Rauner said the session ended in a “stunning failure” and faulted Democrats, who hold a majority in both houses of the General Assembly, for not passing a budget before the deadline.

    Rauner claimed lawmakers were holding out on voting on reforms until after November’s general election.

    This is the second year in a row that the legislature has adjourned without passing a budget before the end of the spring session.

    Last June, Rauner vetoed a Democratic budget proposal, claiming it was $4 billion out of balance, but signed off on a portion of the measure that dealt with funding education.

    5. The one year mark for the state’s budget impasse is Friday

    The nearly year-long impasse has adversely affected health and social services, as well as public colleges and universities.

    The state has relied on court orders and consent decrees for funding over the course of the impasse and has failed to make payments for certain schools and services because money was not appropriated in a budget.

    As a result, a group of Illinois-based human and social service agencies and companies filed a lawsuit against Rauner and members of his administration in May seeking payment of over $100 million. An early childhood education nonprofit led the the governor’s wife, Diana Rauner, joined the lawsuit later in the month.

    Additionally, Chicago State University was forced to lay off more than 300 employees in April after cutting the semester short to save critical funds.

    The impasse has hinged on Rauner’s Turnaround Agena, which is focused on pension reform, term limits, weakening unions, freezing propoerty taxes and redistricting workers.

    However, the governor’s new stopgap funding plan has little trace of his pro-business, union-weakening agenda.

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