With time running out before the July 1 deadline to pass a budget, the Illinois House and Senate will return to Springfield next week, with a vote likely to take place on a stop-gap measure to pay the state's backlog of bills until January. But there's a new wrinkle in the plan, as a battle over Chicago Public Schools grows.
If no stop-gap budget measure is in place by next Friday, construction crews may peel away from road projects, struggling social service agencies may close their doors, and even as schools interview new teachers, they may have to put all plans on hold as well.
Governor Bruce Rauner says Democrats are close to an agreement on a stop-gap budget for social services, roads and even schools, but it also includes what he called a "bail out" for Chicago Public Schools, and he will not agree to that condition.
"They want to bring every pressure they can to force a crisis," Rauner said of legislators in Springfield on Thursday. "It won't solve any of our long-term problems, and a bailout of Chicago, just sending a lot more money to CPS, they've proven they squander their money."
Rauner said he supports the school district declaring bankruptcy instead.
"They could have CPS reorganize their debts and their contracts under a bankruptcy in front of a judge, reorganize their obligations," Rauner said. "That's not a terrible thing, it wouldn't have to result in any layoffs."
Chicago Public Schools fired back Thursday, saying that under Illinois law, CPS cannot legally declare bankruptcy.
"Governor Rauner is itching to subject Chicago students to his old slash-and-burn corporate takeover tactics, decimating our schools and cheating teachers of their pensions – when he should be providing adequate and equitable funding," said CPS spokesperson Emily Bittner. "We’ll keep fighting to make sure that Governor Rauner can’t avoid his responsibility to fund schools around the state and protect our children’s futures."
Mayor Emanuel also criticized the governor's suggestion, and for recently comparing Chicago Public Schools to prisons.
"Do we give that child at a better tomorrow, or run them down and say that they're in prisons?" Emanuel asked Thursday. "I am tired of this. This child is not a prisoner in a prison."
Mayor Emanuel and the governor continue to be at odds as the state lingers without a budget now for 18 months. With the possibility of schools not opening on time growing ever more legitimate, the debate over Chicago versus the rest of the state is amplified.
"I think everybody wants to see Chicago succeed, but there have got to be reforms to how Chicago operates on the money side," said state Senator Matt Murphy.
So as lawmakers return to Springfield next week, it's important to note that if the stop-gap budget is tied to a Chicago Public Schools bailout, the governor will not approve it.