General Assembly Passes, Rauner Signs Stopgap Budget Compromise

"Very important work has been accomplished after serious compromise and good faith efforts, but our job is not finished," Speaker Madigan said Thursday.

Governor Rauner signed a temporary budget compromise passed by the Illinois General Assembly on Thursday. The funding measures will ensure schools open this fall and state services continue through the end of the year.

A complete budget, or "grand compromise," is clearly off the table as the state's lingering budget impasse will likely stretch into its second year Friday. The stopgap funding will only serve as a band-aid for the next six months.

During a speech Thursday afternoon, Gov. Bruce Rauner stressed bipartisan solutions and the need to pass a reform-minded, balanced budget. Rauner called the plan "an attempt at good faith compromise to set up the possibility for a grand bargain." 

"I believe, and I firmly hope, that right now we've hit the bottom," Rauner said. "This is the low point in the evolution of Illinois and now we begin to move up. Growth, value for taxpayers, better schools and a political system that is responsive and actually making good decisions for the long-term health of the state."

The impasse has largely hinged on Rauner’s Turnaround Agena, which is focused on pension reform, term limits, freezing property taxes and redistricting workers. The compromise passed Thursday has little trace of the governor's pro-business, union-weakening agenda.

Rauner met with party leaders throughout the week hammering out a stopgap funding compromise for K-12 education and other essential state services, like higher education and social services. The package was broken into a series of bills which were all approved by the Illinois House Thursday.

The first bill ensures that critical state services continue to operate through the end of the year. In total, the bill accounts for a $331 million increase in general state aid funding.

The bill includes $1 billion for higher education and $670 million to fund human services that are not funded by consent decree or court order. All road and transit construction is also funded.

The plan adds $250 million in spending for school districts with low-income students. Roughly $100 million of that would go to Chicago Public Schools, sources told NBC 5.

The compromise also includes a bill requiring the state to contribute $205 million to the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund. The pension payments, which are only for fiscal year 2017, won't go into effect until June of 2017.

Another bill, which could bring in up to $250 million for Chicago, allows the city to use a property tax to help pay for teacher pensions. The tax, which was eliminated in 1995, will be a seperate line item on Chicago property tax bills.

A tax increment financing bill that was added at the last minute Thursday allows Mayor Rahm Emanuel to access $1 billion in federal money without the approval of the legislature. 

Voting was briefly delayed Thursday when the Black Caucus introduced a last minute amendment and House Republicans broke for a party meeting.

The amendment included $9.3 million for Bridge funding, minority teacher scholarships and other programs.

A spirited debate broke out on the House Floor when representatives returned to session in the afternoon. Rep. Will Franks took offense after members of the assembly applauded when the amendment was dropped. 

"I heard applause from the other side of the aisle," Davis said. "And I couldn't understand why they would be applauding the fact that programs to help minorities are not being debated, they're not being taken into consideration, that they're not being prioritized in a way that they should be."

Davis took aim at House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, claiming the Republican leader wasn't concerned enough about minority communities.

"I understand, you don't care about minority communities as much as I do," Davis said to a smattering of groans. 

Later, Rep. Ron Sandack explained that Republicans were applauding the fact that a hastily introduced amendment was dropped and that the reaction had nothing to do with race.

After approving the stopgap measures earlier in the day, members of the House ultimately voted to appropriate money for the stopgap funding Thursday afternoon.

Madigan addressed the assembly after the vote. He acknowledged that lawmakers still had work to do to pass a full budget, but lauded the bipartisan compromise as a sign of progress.

"This is a compromise effort that also makes important progress for fulfilling our obligations to Illinois' middle class, the elderly, children, the most vulnerable," the speaker said. "Progress that must continue as we move forward."

Durkin praised the bipartisan effort, thanking Democratic leaders for engaging Republicans.

The Illinois Senate unanimously approved the stopgap budget shortly after the plan passed the House.

After the legislature failed to pass a complete, balanced budget before the end of the spring legislative session last month, Rauner introduced his original stopgap plan and embarked on a tour of the state, pushing legislation and railing against a “bailout” for Chicago Public Schools. 

On Thursday, Rauner explained that he shifted his attention to a stopgap plan after Democratic leaders made it clear that, although some reform compromises made sense, they wouldn't vote on them in the lead-up to the November election.

The governor’s stopgap tour culminated in the introduction of revamped bills to fund schools and other services, measures that were filed Tuesday by Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin. 

Democrats also outlined a separate funding plan this week, but no portion of either plan was introduced when lawmakers reconvened in Springfield Wednesday for a special legislative session.

Instead, attention shifted to the bipartisan compromise that passed Thursday. The governor drafted the legislation with Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, as well as Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and Durkin.

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

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.

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