Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration tried another approach in the battle over Chicago Public Schools finances, urging lawmakers to back an effort from two Senate Republicans to both overhaul state pensions and send CPS $215 million that officials say is needed to avert an early end to the school year. […]
Rauner took to Facebook on Tuesday to say he would sign a bill that combines an effort to curb public sector pension benefits — legislation that recently fell four votes short of winning Senate approval — and a one-year CPS funding measure the governor vetoed in December.
Rauner later acknowledged he was “a little emotional” when he announced the veto not long after Democratic Senate President John Cullerton publicly suggested there had never been a deal linking the $215 million in CPS pension aid to broader statewide pension reforms.
CPS moved to cut costs after the veto by furloughing employees, freezing school budgets and saying it could be forced to cut summer school and shorten the school year by about three weeks — for a savings of about $96 million — if the state or the courts don’t intervene.
* Mayor Emanuel gently responded yesterday and offered up his own demands…
“I will compliment the governor. This is an acknowledgment that, in fact, there’s pension inequity in the system,” the mayor said. “But, if I’m not mistaken, it’s only one year of pension funding while the pension reform is permanent. That doesn’t sound to me like a full agreement.”
Emanuel urged Rauner to take the first step toward a larger agreement by signing a bill he has threatened to veto, saving two of four city employee pension funds.
“The Laborers and Municipal Fund pension reform is on his desk. And the first step on the road to ensuring and securing our pensions and our fiscal stability would be to sign that bill,” Emanuel said.
Rauner spokesperson Eleni Demertzis countered that the state “already provides a special block grant for CPS as a substitute for the state not picking up its normal cost of pensions.”
“The bipartisan agreement reached last summer was to give Chicago one year support for its pensions of $215 million on top of its special block grant,” she wrote in an email.
* Senate President John Cullerton’s spokesman agrees.
The proposals that Senators Tracy and Connelly mentioned in their press conference were filed [yesterday]. A quick read reveals that while the pension changes would be permanent, the associated funding for CPS is for FY 17 only.
“That legislation forces permanent pension changes for thousands of teachers, university employees and state workers, and the tradeoff is one-time funding assistance for Chicago schools.
“That’s a bad deal.”
*** UPDATE *** 1 ILGOP press release…
“Illinois Democrats have said no to real reforms with a truly balanced budget. First, they refused to consider a long-term property tax freeze and reduced spending. Now they’re rejecting a plan to help Chicago Public Schools while providing statewide pension reform. They’re even blocking Governor Rauner from cutting on his own to balance the budget. While Governor Rauner does his job, they’re back to being the party of no.” – Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Steven Yaffe
*** UPDATE *** 2 Press release…
Governor Rauner released a video message Thursday encouraging the General Assembly to take swift action on legislation that would enact statewide pension reform while delivering Chicago Public Schools the $215 million it has requested from the state.
The Governor has pledged to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk. The video can be viewed on his Facebook page.
“The people of Illinois want to see their leaders get good things done in Springfield and right now, we have the opportunity to make that happen. Comprehensive pension reform for the entire state would save taxpayers billions, and allow us to meet a request for assistance from the city of Chicago,” Rauner said. “Illinois has been asking for a compromise, and this is a compromise we can all get behind. Let’s get it done.”
Senators Michael Connelly and Jil Tracy this week introduced legislation taking the pension bill (SB 16) from the “Grand Bargain” and combining it with a bill delivering $215 million to CPS for its teacher pensions. The package would be expected to win bipartisan support given that the pension proposal came within four votes of passage and the CPS funding passed both chambers of the General Assembly last summer.
Last June, Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders agreed the state would pay for one year of CPS’ teacher pensions as long as lawmakers provided the necessary funding by passing statewide pension reform. The agreement was broken when the Illinois Senate did not follow-through with the pension reform component and sent only the CPS bill to the Governor’s desk.
Recently, the Rauner Administration offered two paths to help CPS fill its multi-million dollar budget hole: the legislative proposal or through city TIF funds.
“We urge the General Assembly to move forward quickly with the deal on pensions that helps our state save billions of dollars,” Rauner said. “By honoring the agreement we worked out last summer, Democrats could jumpstart momentum to break the budget impasse in Springfield.”