Illinois Governor Fails to Get a Single Vote for His Education Spending Plan

By Quint Forgey Features Dow Jones Newswires

No one in the Illinois House of Representatives voted Wednesday in support of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's rewrite of a school funding plan, as Democrats demonstrated the general dissatisfaction with the governor's proposal.

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Earlier this month, Mr. Rauner rejected a funding formula, passed by both houses of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, that allocates state aid to the neediest school districts first.

After the governor made changes to the legislation, the state Senate rejected them Sunday, when one Republican lawmaker joined the chamber's 37 Democrats to achieve the three-fifths majority necessary to override Mr. Rauner's veto.

To better gauge support for an override attempt in their chamber, House Speaker Michael Madigan and other Democratic representatives put Mr. Rauner's changes to Senate Bill 1 in a new piece of legislation Wednesday and forced a test vote. Sixty members voted against it, 33 simply voted present and none voted in support.

In a news conference following the floor action, Mr. Madigan said the House will vote on overriding the governor's veto next Wednesday.

Proponents of the original funding model, as outlined in Senate Bill 1, say it attempts to establish adequate funding levels for the more than 850 school districts in Illinois by basing them on students' and institutions' individual needs, taking into account such factors as districts' property tax contributions to school funding.

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But Mr. Rauner claimed the bill gave preferential treatment to the hard-pressed Chicago Public Schools district, so he used his veto powers earlier this month to make sweeping changes to the measure. That included stripping from Chicago more than $463 million in funding from the original proposal, according to an analysis released Saturday by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The governor's revisions eliminated roughly $200 million in grant money to the Chicago schools and removed $221 million in extra funds meant to help cover the costs of Chicago's teachers pension system, though Mr. Rauner said he wanted to reintegrate that pension money into a separate bill.

The governor's repudiation Wednesday comes just a month after the legislature overrode his veto to levy a roughly $5 billion income tax increase and pass the state's first budget in more than two years.

The $36 billion spending plan passed in July included a funding increase of roughly $350 million for K-12 schools. Democratic lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1 in May as a mechanism to distribute the new money, and waited two months before sending it to the governor in hopes that negotiators from both parties could work out a compromise measure the governor would be willing to sign. But a deal could not be reached, and Mr. Rauner vetoed the legislation on Aug. 1.

The political brinkmanship resulted in Illinois missing its Aug. 10 deadline for the first round of state aid payments to K-12 schools. The current backlog of vouchers awaiting payment by the comptroller to school districts totals roughly $1.2 billion, part of the $4.6 billion backlog of unpaid bills the state racked up during its record-breaking fiscal impasse.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 16, 2017 17:46 ET (21:46 GMT)