|Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a stopgap budget and education funding measure into law late Thursday.
After weeks of struggling to come to an agreement, Republicans and Democrats have settled on Senate Bill 1810, which will fund government operations for the next six months and ensure that schools open on time in the fall.
The overall agreement package does give the city of Chicago the ability to raise property taxes by $250 million to fund teacher pensions (Senate Bill 318) and covers $215 million in Chicago teacher pensions in fiscal year 2017 (Senate Bill 2822). But the package of reforms does not provide the full bailout city officials sought initially. If Chicago politicians want to ignore the city’s dire need for spending and pension reform and instead ask taxpayers to cover more of their recklessness, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago aldermen will have to accept the blame for that decision. And the full burden of funding Chicago pensions won’t be borne by taxpayers across the state – Chicagoans will feel the pain if city officials choose to raise property taxes within less than a year of the city’s record tax hike. The unfortunate truth for Chicago residents is that property taxes will have to more than double to be able to fund the city’s $34 billion in pension debt.
Another important feature of the stopgap plan is that it ensures funding for critical human services, road construction, prison operations and veterans care. The bill also provides $1 billion for higher education, including one semester’s worth of Monetary Award Program grants for low-income students, according to the Chicago Tribune.
With the prospect of another Chicago property-tax hike one step closer to reality and no foundational reforms yet achieved, even a compromise like this one can feel deflating. But the good news is that this plan buys six months to get back to work on the real reforms Illinois needs.
“Let’s be clear,” Gov. Rauner said after the vote. “This is just a small step in the process of making Illinois strong and healthy and vibrant. This is a small step in the right direction. … This is a bridge to reform.”
“Reforms are essential, and our efforts to get significant reform for the people of Illinois will never cease.”