Earlier today, the Illinois House of Representatives approved an amendment, on a bipartisan
basis, that would make appropriations for a comprehensive, full-year budget for all of State government.
SB 6 (Steans, D-Chicago)
is still pending on the House floor for a final passage vote, likely to keep the bill in a posture for further amendments if warranted by the ongoing budget talks.
After passage of the bill, the legislative leaders met, which then sent each party caucus into their respective private meetings. At approximately 2:30 p.m., the House adjourned and announced it will reconvene Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. The next 12-24 hours will be filled with intense negotiations on the rest of the initiatives to be included in any budget agreement.
SB 9 (Hutchison, D-Olympia Fields), the bill that would raise billions of dollars for the State via changes in the tax structure, including an increase in the State income tax rates, will be at the forefront of those discussions. Without new revenues, the appropriations tentatively agreed to cannot be sustained, and the budget bill will likely not be called for a vote on final passage.
Other "non-budget" issues that are still being pushed by some to be part of the final budget agreement will also be negotiated. These include a property tax freeze, pension reform, school funding reform, and reform of the State law on workers' compensation.
K-12 Education Funding
SB 6 would appropriate $350 million for a new, evidence-based funding formula for K-12 education. An appropriation of this size should sufficiently fund SB 1, the funding reform bill that has been approved by both chambers. But, no doubt, there is still lively discussions between the political parties about the final form of a school funding reform initiative.
SB 6 also includes $65 million for regular transportation reimbursements to school districts, and would increase Early Childhood Education funding by $50 million and Bilingual Education funding by $29 million. The other mandated categorical grant line items would be funded at least at Fiscal Year 2017 levels.
What is Next?
Though there is a long way to go before a final, comprehensive, balanced State budget is approved, this is the most positive momentum there has been in over two years. The legislature will return Saturday in a bid to wrap everything up. Since the bills are beginning in the House through amendments, that is where the action will start. Anything approved by the House will then be sent to the Senate for
consideration. The Governor will have the ultimate decision once the bills reach his desk. But since we have passed the May 31
st constitutional deadline, any bill with an immediate effective date (like an FY 18 appropriations bill) needs a 3/5 vote for passage - this will require Republican votes and would be the same number of votes necessary to override a veto by the Governor.
Even though, technically, the State will begin a new fiscal year without a budget, July 1 is a Saturday which could provide a buffer before the real effects of entering another fiscal year without spending authority occur. Those very real possibilities include the national bond houses downgrading Illinois' bond rating to the lowest level possible, stopping in mid-work all of the road construction projects in the State, and the multi-state lotteries disallowing Illinois' participation in the games.
Keep Up the Pressure
The participation and engagement by school superintendents, board members, and other Alliance members over the past few weeks has been impressive - and there are results to prove it. The needle has been moved in large part to that advocacy work.
But now, more than ever, the pressure needs to remain. Not only should Alliance members continue calling their legislators to demand a balanced, statewide budget - they should be urging their teachers, parents of the students, and the entire community to do the same in the next 12-24 hours.