It appears the House budget bills will be voted upon soon. The Human Services budget has money in it for community grants for developmental disability services but no specifics.

Only six days left in the legislative session and we are moving into our 12th month without a state budget. We could see another year without a budget if something does not change soon!

On another front, social service groups, Pay Now Illinois, filed a court motion today for “emergency relief” to get their unfunded state contracts paid. The relief would require the state to begin immediate payment on contracts that are more than 60 days in arrears, an amount estimated to be $100 million.

Story from the Chicago Tribune.


Madigan floats $500M more for schools, but
Rauner says budget $7 billion short 

By Monique Garcia
and Kim Geiger
Chicago Tribune

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is planning to present a budget that would pour $500 million more into school funding for districts with low-income students under a spending plan that Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration suggests is $7 billion short.

The broad points of the proposal surfaced Wednesday as the governor and legislative leaders met again behind closed doors with a spring session deadline looming Tuesday. The House Democratic budget blueprint largely envisions state government running on autopilot — an indication that despite Rauner’s vague suggestion of optimism, there is unlikely to be a resolution to the historic budget stalemate.

According to an analysis of the legislation distributed to lawmakers and the administration, the plan calls for spending just $13.7 billion out of the state’s general revenue fund, the primary checkbook of state government. Much of state government instead would be funded under a patchwork of court orders and consent decrees that has kept more than 90 percent of funding flowing as Illinois operates without a complete budget.

Rauner’s office said the plan was at least $7 billion out of balance, with Democrats proposing to spend $39 billion while only $32 billion in revenue is available. A Rauner aide called it “by far the phoniest phony budget in recent Illinois history.”

Emerging from the private meeting, Madigan tried to place the blame for the budget impasse on Rauner.

“He’s responsible for the administration of the executive department, the implementation of programs in the executive department,” Madigan said. “The legislature provides authority to spend money.

“How is he doing in managing the finances of the state? That’s a real good question for the governor.”

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno blasted Madigan, referring to him as “the Cheshire cat” who “doesn’t answer questions.”

“What we heard today was a vigorous defense of the status quo,” she said. “He confirmed they intend to pass a budget that allows much of the state to be funded by court orders and consent decrees leading to a budget that will be…$7 billion out of balance.

“My sense is they have no interest in trying to save the state from going off the deep end. But I’ll tell you, every single rank-and-file Democrat who follows the speaker is on notice, that they are a party to this,” said Radogno, of Lemont.

Funding for most agencies would remain flat, save for a $500 million bump for schools. That increase is being called an “equity grant,” and is aimed at increasing funding for poorer school districts — including Chicago Public Schools.

The city’s public school system has been borrowing heavily to stay open and has a huge teacher pension payment due at the end of June. It wasn’t immediately clear how much of the $500 million CPS would get, though as the state’s largest school district by a wide margin, it’s bound to be a large chunk of the funding. Republicans, led by Rauner, have decried the idea of a CPS bailout.

Under the Democratic plan, early childhood education would be increased by $75 million, while funding for programs including transportation, special education and student meals would remain flat. A way to pay for the education funding increase is not identified.

One question is whether the schools money would be contained in its own bill and not a larger budget proposal. A separate bill means Rauner could sign off on school spending while vetoing the rest of the budget. That’s what the governor did last summer.

Still, the Democratic increase goes far and above Rauner’s proposal to funnel an extra $55 million for elementary and secondary education into the current formula that would see CPS take a hit.

The proposal does not include a broad overhaul of the school funding formula Senate Democrats have pushed for, which would take some money away from wealthier school districts and redistribute it to poorer schools. That idea has faced tough opposition from those who don’t want their schools to lose out on any state aid. Under the House Democratic proposal, all school districts would see a bump in funding, according to the analysis.

Public universities and community colleges would split $2.2 billion — the same amount lawmakers set aside last year but was vetoed along with much of the rest of the budget by Rauner. Another $4.6 billion would be spent on social service programs that care for the state’s elderly and vulnerable, though the budget plan does not include money for services that have been mandated by court order, including home-delivered meals, some Medicaid health care programs, financial assistance for needy families and long-term care for those with developmental disabilities.

The Democratic spending proposal is independent of the governor’s legislative agenda, which Rauner has made a prerequisite for a larger budget deal.

Madigan said he told the governor Wednesday that “he’s not being real persuasive” in meetings to negotiate on the governor’s ideas to change worker’s compensation and collective bargaining.

“My advice to the governor today is that he and his agents are not being persuasive in the working groups,” Madigan said.

The veteran speaker said he would continue sending House Democrats to the working groups. In the meantime, Madigan said he plans to call an appropriations bill Wednesday in the House but would not discuss the details of the bill, saying he’ll “speak to that at the time of the consideration of the bill.”

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the proposal may morph over the next few days but is “based on what we believe Illinois law requires to be spent.

“As always, we are happy to sit down and negotiate and adjust,” Brown said. “This is an effort to make sure Illinois citizens aren’t trapped by the push for the personal agenda stuff,” Brown said.

In Chicago, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said the district and other Illinois school systems will march on Springfield to prod state lawmakers toward a last-second overhaul of the state’s complex school funding formula or some other measure to rescue the ailing district.
“With one voice, these districts across the state will express the outrage that we feel toward a funding system that so blatantly discriminates against poor and minority children throughout the state of Illinois,” Claypool said Wednesday at the monthly Board of Education meeting.
“There’s only one week left in the legislative session, so we need to make a statement that the governor cannot ignore,” Claypool said.

The district and the Chicago Teachers Union have both voiced support for a Senate-approved overhaul of the state’s education funding formula, which would send hundreds of millions of extra dollars to CPS.

What’s not clear is how both sides will respond to Madigan’s plan.

Claypool’s comments came as dozens of community members organized by Raise Your Hand, a group allied with CTU, marched downtown and through City Hall to decry budget cuts the school system has threatened absent intervention from state lawmakers.

Shannon Belmont, parent to a student that attends Coonley Elementary, said her building could lose roughly $1.5 million under CPS’ prospective cuts.

“It’s just catastrophic, it just can’t happen,” she said. “It’s absolutely catastrophic.”

“My fear is losing dozens of teachers and all of our special programs. My fear is 40 or 50 kids in a classroom, no art, no library, no gym, no music. These are all essential programs, they’re not things that can be cut — but there’s not going to be any money left.”

Princess Shaw, a parent at Ericson Scholastic Academy, said the prospective cuts amount to “child abuse.”

“Why is it that Forrest Claypool, every year, makes $200,000-plus and my son’s school is expected to lose $815,000?” Shaw shouted into a bullhorn outside CPS headquarters. “My whole thing is, it’s not even fair.”

Chicago Tribune’s Juan Perez Jr. contributed from Chicago.

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