July 6, 2017

Illinois' long budget impasse nightmare finally ends
After 736 days without a budget, Illinois at long last has one after the House voted to override the governor's veto of the revenue bill (Senate Bill 9) by the slimmest of margins with 71 votes today, thanks in large part to 10 Republicans who stepped forward despite political and personal threats. The House action, coupled with the Senate's override on Tuesday, means the income tax increase and the budget are now law, ending the longest state budget-less stretch in the country's history.

The House also overrode the Governor's vetoes on the budget (SB 6), and the budget implementation bill (SB 42).

The tension surrounding the vote was heightened when the Capitol was locked down, delaying the vote for almost two hours after someone threw white powder near the governor's office and other places in the Capitol. HazMat teams responded and the substance eventually tested negative.

"It is very difficult for anyone of either party to vote for a tax increase, but it had become clear that the state did not have enough revenue to even cover the schools budget it passed last year, let alone higher education, social services and the many other state services that people all over the state depend on. We want to thank those legislators that took this tough vote," said Dr. Brent Clark, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA). "We know that some legislators have been under intense pressure and even personal threats in some cases. We are very appreciative of their hard work and courageous votes to give Illinois schools a sustainable future."

The income tax increase from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent returns that tax almost to the temporary 5 percent income tax that was rolled back two years ago. At the time the income tax increase expired on January 1, 2015, the state's backlog of bills was $4.36 million. Today, according to the State Comptroller's website, that backlog stands at more than $14.7 billion. The lack of revenue resulted in the state making only two of four payments to schools for items such as transportation and special education, resulting in the state owing schools more than $1 billion for last year alone.

The budget bill, Senate Bill 6, includes $350 million additional education funding for the evidence-based school funding model as well as an increase of $65 million for regular and vocational transportation, bringing it up to 84.6 percent of full transportation funding, up from 71 percent in FY17. SB 6 also would increase Early Childhood Education funding by $50 million and Bilingual Education funding by $38.5 million between new evidence-based model funding and a separate appropriation for bilingual education. The other mandated categorical grant line items would be funded at least at Fiscal Year 2017 levels.
It also ties all school funding to the evidence-based model, which came out of the Vision 20/20 initiative, and is the foundation of SB 1 -- the first sweeping school funding reform to pass the General Assembly in more than 20 years. SB 1 is still in limbo because of the threat of veto by the governor, but today's override means a gubernatorial veto of SB 1 would effectively cut off funding to public schools despite there being a state budget with new revenues.

"Obviously, we would hope that the governor will sign the evidence-based school funding model into law. It would be a huge step toward changing the nation's most inequitable school funding system into one that will help those schools furthest from adequacy," Clark said. "And the revenue and budget bills that passed will help us move toward adequacy.

"School administrators all over the state have been making tough decisions and cuts for years because of the lack of state revenue. Providing educational opportunities for our students is the best investment the state can make in its future and we thank those legislators who had the political courage to be a champion for our school children."

Now, the political focus turns to SB 1. Stay tuned.

Diane L. Hendren
Director of Governmental Relations 
Illinois Association of School Administrators