Last week the House and Senate passed and the Governor signed a partial budget compromise that will allow schools to open on time, relieve uncertainty about their ability to stay open this year and stave off disaster for our remaining social services providers and the vulnerable populations they serve.
It is – unequivocally – progress. But it is also a step that should have been taken more than a year ago and one that will not fully or immediately revive the many organizations that have already cut staff and/or closed their doors.
The deal was comprised of several parts:
Senate Bill 2047:
- Increases PreK-12 education funding by $331 million, fully funding the current per-pupil Foundation Level for the entire 2016-17 school year and ending the practice of prorating General State Aid to districts in order to account for insufficient appropriations
- Includes a $250 million “equity grant” that will be distributed to school districts on the basis of need
- Funds other education programs, including mandated categoricals, agriculture education, bilingual education, student assessments and career and technical programs
- Appropriates more than $720 million for state agencies’ operational expenses; this money will come from General Revenue Funds, the Budget Stabilization (“rainy day”) fund and the Commitment to Human Services Fund
- Will allow the state to pay for many of the costs (such as food, medical care and utilities) incurred at state-run facilities such as prisons
- Sends $655 million to the state’s nine public universities, totaling 90 percent of FY 15 funding for those universities with the smallest reserves and most significant fiscal challenges (Chicago State, Eastern University and Western University) and 82 percent of FY 15 funding for the other six
- Appropriates $114 million for community colleges, $20 million for emergency expenses in higher education, $50 million for adult education programs and money for various grant programs for veterans, aspiring teachers and others
- Covers remaining FY 16 MAP grant claims ($151 million), making whole the universities that continued to honor these awards last school year
- Allocates more than $670 million from the Commitment to Human Services fund for services not covered by a consent decree; this funding can be used to cover both FY 16 and FY 17 expenses
- These services include the Community Care Program, community mental health, addiction treatment, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, HIV/AIDS services, youth programs, homelessness prevention and services, burials for the indigent, immigration and refugee services, Adult and Juvenile Redeploy Illinois crime diversion programs and more
- Funding for these programs is equal to 65 percent of an 18-month appropriation (FY 16 plus the first six months of FY 17)
- Medicaid reimbursements and payments for services rendered under a consent decree will continue to be paid at FY 16 levels
- Includes the full IDOT capital program for roads and transit
- Includes money to restart some mothballed infrastructure projects for schools, water systems and park districts
- Appropriates federal funds and money from “other state funds” for FY 17 (and FY 16 if not already appropriated)
Senate Bill 318:
Allows the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education to levy up to $250 million in property taxes, which will be used to make payments into the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, helping to stabilize the district’s finances and ensure schools remain open
Senate Bill 2822:
Establishes one year of pension parity between CPS (which currently receives almost no money from the state toward its teacher pensions) and other Illinois school districts, which receive the full “employer contribution” toward teacher pensions from the State. Pursuant to a deal reached with the governor, this measure has passed both chambers but is being held in the General Assembly rather than sent to the governor’s desk pending debate and passage of a separate pension reform bill at a later date. This will likely be addressed in January. If the pension parity bill is released to the governor and signed, the state would cover $205 million in normal teacher pension costs (i.e., not including payments incurred because of the system’s unfunded liability) for CPS for FY 17 only.
Senate Bill 1810:
A Budget Implementation Bill (BIMP) that forgives interfund borrowing in order to fund part of the state operations portion of SB 2047 and undertakes other actions needed to put the partial budget into effect.
I don’t intend to let the good news of a short-term budget compromise become an excuse for complacency. Instead, this legislation is a model for what can be accomplished when partisan barricades are abandoned and trust is built on a foundation of shared priorities. The rank-and-file working group process eventually bore fruit through a hard-won trust that launched a productive conversation with and among leadership. However, the budget group in which I participated also produced a complete budget; I am dismayed that we were not at the point where all leaders were willing to take that step.
I will continue to fight for a complete, responsible budget and the revenue and reforms needed to sustain it. While pressure can incite action, as it finally did last week, it also takes a tremendous toll on individuals and families who are in no way to blame for the state’s fiscal crisis. That’s the wrong way to govern, but we’ve seen it happen time and again in the past year and a half, and it will continue unless we not only budget appropriately for the future but repair the damage inflicted during the impasse. I will use the breathing room provided by this partial budget as an opportunity to work toward that necessary goal.
As always, please feel free to contact my office at (773) 769-1717 with any questions or concerns you may have about this budget or any issue in state government. A good opportunity to chat in person is a coffee I will host at the Swedish American Museum (5211 N. Clark) this Sunday, July 10 from 10-11 a.m. You can also visit my website for a list of upcoming events in the district; I’ll be in touch with further announcements as they arise.
Senator Heather Steans
7th District – Illinois