* Senate President John Cullerton emerged from the leaders meeting today to deny that the Democrats had ever agreed to do a pension reform deal in exchange for a $215 million appropriation for Chicago Public Schools.
“We haven’t talked about putting those two things together,” Cullerton said, even though it was widely reported that a deal had, in fact, been made back in June.
Cullerton said the governor told the leaders today that he wasn’t going to sign the CPS funding bill.
“The governor indicated that he thought before he would sign that he wanted to have some pension reform,” Cullerton said. “That was the governor’s insistence. We passed the bill and put it on his desk, so I would urge him to sign it. If he’s not going to sign it because he wants something else, he hasn’t told us what that is yet.”
“To me, it’s just semantics,” Cullerton said. “Things aren’t tied together.”
However, House GOP Leader Jim Durkin told reporters that it is “disappointing that they’ve walked away from the deal we had in that room last June regarding the Chicago Public Schools and the $200 million in exchange for a pension reform bill to be completed by the end of this General Assembly. They’ve gone back on it… They’re not interested in pension reform, they’re more interested in stopgap.”
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno agreed with Durkin’s take.
* Meanwhile, Speaker Madigan told reporters that he was available to meet over the weekend with the other leaders, but not on Friday or Monday.
Madigan also shot back at the governor’s claim that he demanded a stopgap budget.
“I did not suggest a stopgap budget,” Madigan said. “The idea of a stopgap budget originated with the governor or his people.”
“The word stopgap was never used,” Madigan said. “I’m suggesting a budget. I’m suggesting a budget. There was very little discussion about budget-making today.” He didn’t specify what those other topics were.
But Leader Radogno said, “It’s all semantics whether you call it an ‘unbalanced budget’ [or] a ’stopgap budget.’ What we need and what we’re committed to continue to work on is a balanced budget that will contain reforms.”
Senate President Cullerton waved off the entire issue. “A stopgap budget is what you would do if you couldn’t pass a balanced budget. I want to focus on passing a full budget,” he said.
* Asked about the latest glitches with the Exelon bill, with the Rauner administration claiming “poison pills” had been inserted, Speaker Madigan said “The governor’s administration says a lot of things.”
Speaking of which, here’s Crain’s…
Rauner also discovered a provision on prevailing wages that he accused archrival House Speaker Michael Madigan of inserting into the bill, this source said.
Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown said the prevailing wage language has been in the legislation for months. “Once again, they’re grasping at straws and they’re not quite getting the grip,” he said.
* One positive (I suppose) development today, however, was that staff has been assigned to take a look at some reform and budget proposals.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Well, that didn’t take long. The governor has vetoed the CPS funding bill…
Governor Bruce Rauner took action today on the following bill:
Bill No.: SB 2822
An Act Concerning Public Employee Benefits
To the Honorable Members of
The Illinois Senate,
99th General Assembly:
Today I return Senate Bill 2822, which would give $215,000,000 to Chicago Public Schools without having reached agreement on comprehensive pension reforms for the State and local governments.
In June we agreed on a six-month funding bridge to a balanced budget with structural and economic reforms. Democrat leaders were clear at that time that an agreement to end the budget impasse was not possible before the election. Although disappointed, we came together to fund schools and critical government operations until legislative leaders were willing to reengage in serious, good faith negotiations.
As a precondition to funding schools statewide, Democrats proposed a $700 million State bailout of CPS. We eventually agreed to provide CPS with $215,000,000 – the estimated amount of its Fiscal Year 2017 employer normal pension cost – but only if we came together to pass comprehensive pension reform. Without reforms to solve our structural problems, taxpayer money would continue to be wasted on bailout after bailout.
The agreement was clear: Republicans supported Senate Bill 2822 only on condition that Democrats reengage in serious, good faith negotiations; and President Cullerton and Leader Radogno filed motions to reconsider the bill, which would keep the bill in the General Assembly until a pension reform agreement was reached.
The election is over. Despite my repeated request for daily negotiations and hope to reach a comprehensive agreement by the end of next week, we are no closer to ending the impasse or enacting pension reform. Still, President Cullerton withdrew his motion to reconsider the bill, ruled that Leader Radogno’s motion was inapplicable, and presented the bill to me for approval or veto – forcing me to take action. Then today, President Cullerton suddenly denied that the leaders had agreed that this bill would depend upon first enacting comprehensive pension reform. Breaking our agreement undermines our effort to end the budget impasse and enact reforms with bipartisan support.
The taxpayers of Illinois want a balanced budget. That can only be done if we address the structural imbalances that have bankrupted the State and CPS alike and drain resources that should be spent on other priorities, like improving schools and funding social services. The taxpayers of Illinois do not want just another bailout. Let’s get back to work to end the budget impasse and put Illinois on the right track once and for all.
Therefore, pursuant to Section 9(b) of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, I hereby return Senate Bill 2822 entitled “AN ACT concerning public employee benefits”, with the foregoing objections, vetoed in its entirety.
*** UPDATE 2 *** From the Illinois Constitution…
The house to which a bill is returned shall immediately enter the Governor’s objections upon its journal. If within 15 calendar days after such entry that house by a record vote of three-fifths of the members elected passes the bill, it shall be delivered immediately to the second house. If within 15 calendar days after such delivery the second house by a record vote of three-fifths of the members elected passes the bill, it shall become law.
The Senate has just journalized the veto. The clock now starts ticking, but today is the final scheduled day of veto session and scheduling another day during the holidays would be nearly impossible. So, the Senate and the House may have to vote on this today and there are attendance issues in both chambers. Plus, how do they put their targets on this thing, particularly since it likely can’t pass the House anyway? Stay tuned.
*** UPDATE 3 *** From Senate President Cullerton…
“Just this week I presented a pension reform model to the governor. I’m shocked and disappointed by his actions today. Chicago had taken steps to increase local responsibility and reform pensions. Two more pension system reforms are pending in the General Assembly. From where I stand, we were moving forward.
“The legislation that contained funding for Chicago schools was sent to the governor on Nov. 7. He had another month before he faced a deadline to act on it.
“By acting in such haste, the governor has unfortunately set back negotiations that I believed were advancing. Even worse, he has potentially forced the layoff of thousands of Chicago teachers and district employees.
“I don’t understand and am thoroughly disappointed in his short-sighted move.”
*** UPDATE 4 *** From the ILGOP…
Will Democrats Back the Chicago Bailout?
Time for House and Senate Democrats to Choose
“Democratic leaders today broke their promise to enact statewide pension reform, and instead want to force a taxpayer funded bailout of Chicago Public Schools. House and Senate Democrats will have a clear choice to make – will they support the schools and taxpayers in their districts, or send a $215 million check to Chicago?” - Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Steven Yaffe
After Madigan and Cullerton reneged on their promise to pass pension reform, an agreement that would have freed up resources for Chicago schools, House and Senate Democrats will face their first big test.
Will they choose to recklessly bail out Chicago Public Schools, or will they stand with taxpayers who demand Springfield and the City of Chicago exercise fiscal sanity?
The taxpayers are watching.
*** UPDATE 5 *** Tribune…
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said she wasn’t surprised by Rauner’s veto.
“He was never going to give us any money,” said Lewis, who has regularly slammed the Republican governor.
“He just lied about it. He’s a liar, he always has been,” she said Thursday. “He’s trying to starve CPS, that’s his goal.”
Rauner’s veto comes less than a week before the Chicago Board of Education is expected to take another vote on an annual operating budget that now exceeds $5.5 billion. The spending plan has to go through another vote to include tens of millions of dollars of new expenses related to the contract deal reached with CTU in October.
*** UPDATE 6 *** Here you go…
*** UPDATE 7 *** Verification was withdrawn…
On to the House, where the future is very iffy.
*** UPDATE 8 *** The House adjourned until January without a vote. It could conceivably come back in for a special session if a pension deal is done.