House Democrats Pass Budget Bill, Rauner Plans Veto

Illinois House Democrats pushed through a budget bill Wednesday, although the governor plans to veto

Illinois House Democrats pushed through a budget proposal Wednesday that looks to give extra aid to Chicago Public Schools, but the governor has threatened to veto the measure, further prolonging the nearly 11-month impasse. 

The bill, which covers fiscal year 2017, passed the House 63-53 in the midst of a raucous debate Wednesday evening. The bill will now be sent to the Illinois Senate.

The governor's office said Rauner planned to veto the measure before it was even brought for a vote Wednesday.

Republicans claim the budget plan, which excludes any element of Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, is out of balance by about $7 billion.

“This is a slap in the face to the hardworking men and women who’ve been working on this, but also, more importantly, a slap in the face to every Illinoisan who wants honest government,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said during a press conference Wednesday. “As an Illinoisan, as a taxpayer and also as a member of the legislature, I am deeply embarrassed.”

“I guess I want to be angry, but this is an absolute joke,” Durkin added.

Under Speaker Mike Madigan’s proposal, schools would receive a $700 million equity grant to help CPS and other high poverty districts. All told, CPS would receive roughly $287 million, as well as $100 million for pension payments.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded favorably to the news Wednesday.

"While we recognize that we are far from solving all of the challenges at CPS, we see today’s actions as an important first step and look forward to working closely with Chicago legislators to minimize the impacts of the budget crisis in the classroom and to our CPS students,” Emanuel said in a statement.

The plan also calls for $13.5 billion from the state's general revenue fund, which comes from tax money. While operating without a budget over the course of the year, Illinois has relied on court orders and consent decrees for funding.

Under the plan, early childhood programs would get $75 million more in funding, while an additional $4.6 billion would be spent on social service agencies dedicated to aiding the poor and elderly. 

Illinois has been without a budget since July of last year. The impasse has largely hinged on a battle between Rauner and the Democrat-controlled legislature over the governor’s pro-business, union-weakening Turnaround Agenda.

The deadline for the General Assembly to pass a budget with a simple majority is at the end of the month. With no real compromise in sight, it seems the stalemate will continue to linger on.

“I am, of course, always hopeful that there still is time for us to work cooperatively, but I don’t think we can afford to count on compromise,” Rep Barbara Flynn Currie said during a Wednesday press conference. “It didn’t work in the current fiscal year and there’s no guarantee that it will in the next.”

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