Facing mounting public pressure, Gov. Bruce Rauner said he’s willing to sign off on bills to fund Chicago Public Schools and reform the state’s pension system, even if they’re not attached to the Illinois’ Senate’s stalled “grand compromise.”
“We don’t have to do a balanced budget today comprehensively to get CPS $200 million today,” Rauner told reporters Tuesday in Chicago. “We could just pass the pension reform bill and pass the CPS payment bill, both of which are there. These exist. These don’t have to be drafted or negotiated. And it’s done.”
“We save $1 billion for Illinois taxpayers a year and we get $200 million right now for CPS,” he added.
Over the past week, Democrats have accused Rauner of derailing ongoing budget negotiations, and Grammy award-winning Chicagoan Chance the Rapper used a meeting with the governor to bring national attention to the city’s underfunded public school system.
After the Illinois Senate failed to take action last Wednesday on items from its elusive bipartisan budget deal, Senate President John Cullerton blamed Rauner for inserting himself in the ongoing negotiations. Cullerton’s pension reform bill failed last Tuesday for the second time and was placed on postponed consideration, which is important because all the bills in the package currently need to pass for any to become law.
Last week, Cullerton noted that senators are now in a “holding pattern” as bills are amended to forge a compromise with Rauner and the Republicans. Now, Rauner wants the Senate to vote immediately on individual pieces of the interdependent package, which he described Tuesday as “still evolving."
Rauner met Friday with Chance the Rapper, who slammed the governor for vetoing the $215 million in CPS funding last December. Rauner nixed the funding after claiming Democratic leaders backed out of a deal to pass comprehensive pension reform.
The Grammy award-winning artist then announced that he’s donating $1 million to CPS during a press conference at Westcott Elementary School on Monday.
“This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about posturing,” Bennett told reporters. “This is about taking care of the kids.”
“Governor Rauner, do your job,” he added.
On Tuesday, Rauner outlined two paths for the state to immediately address CPS' $215 million funding gap.
One plan would authorize Chicago to use Tax Increment Financing money to fund the beleaguered district. TIF funds are typically used to promote investment and economic development, but developing legislation would allow Mayor Rahm Emanuel to approve a one-time transfer of $215 million from Chicago's TIF funds to CPS.
“If CPS wants or really desperately needs hundreds of millions of dollars more as they claim, it seems to me a reasonable use of that money is to use TIF funds,” Rauner said, noting that the Chicago Teachers Union has also pushed to use TIF money. "It’s right there in cash. Nothing has to change."
The other approach would add the CPS request to Cullerton’s pension reform bill.
“The Senate has introduced it and we’ve got the pension pickup bill there as well,” Rauner added. "Let’s go do those two things right now... or you can combine them into one bill and pass one bill because then it's paid for and some of that money, some of that savings, could go to Chicago.”
Rauner also noted Tuesday that he’s recently had “private conversations” about how to put together CPS funding “today without negotiations, without politics, without new changes.”