CPS School Board Proposal Passes House
Since the 1995 School Reform Act, members of the current 7 member Chicago Public School Board have served at the appointment of the mayor. That Act also removed a property tax line item allowing the city to take a pension holiday for 10 years. The CPS system is currently under excessive financial strain. Since 2000, CPS has doubled its debt and the funding level of the pension system has fallen from over 90% to around 30%. House Bill 557 creates a 20 member elected school board plus a president elected at large, beginning in 2018. The 20 districts will be created through the same process that the legislature uses to draw its own maps. The current board and the mayor are opposed to any changes being made while in the midst of negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Association, which supports the bill. Republicans offered several suggestions to improve the bill, half of which were put in to a new amendment by the sponsor (50% – hows that for compromise!).
Unlike much of the legislation we’ve been voting on in the past year, this bill went through the appropriate procedures and committees. While not all suggested changes were added, they were at least considered. Through compromise and through the committee process, the bill was been amended to remove compensation, to add a revolving door prohibition to help protect taxpayers from duplicitous deals, and to add a prohibition on those serving on the board having any related CPS contracts. There still remain potential conflicts of interest as the bill does not prohibit campaign contributions from unions affiliated with CPS. This bill isn’t perfect, but it is evidence of what we can do if the legislature works and works right.
Spending Plans Versus Budgets
While the bipartisan collaboration on HB 557 proved that when we work together and compromise, significant improvements can be made, hopes that that would pave the way for any other bipartisan efforts were quickly dashed. Unfortunately, two surprise funding bills proved that the political games will continue. On Thursday just before adjourning we were asked to vote on a “compromise” funding effort from Speaker Madigan which wasn’t announced until the night before. This bill never went through an appropriation committee and it’s not a ‘compromise effort’ unless the two parties are at the table together. The bill appropriated nearly $3 billion in GRF spending, but with a mere $454 million in so called funding to pay for it. That “funding” was a companion bill that forgave repayment by state of the $454 million that Governor Rauner borrowed from other state funds last year to help close funding shortfalls caused by the prior administration’s unbalanced budget for the previous year.
I opposed these bills because allocating money without identifying revenue sources gives false hope to programs expecting money and instead receiving an IOU. The Comptroller’s Office currently reports a backlog of unpaid bills totaling $7.2 billion, with almost 50,000 unpaid vouchers on hand. Vendors who provide services to the elderly and vulnerable continue to wait months and months to get paid.
Budget Director Tim Nuding succinctly summed up the reason why we are so vehemently in opposition to this way of budgeting; “This package of bills is not affordable because the legislature has already allocated all existing resources to other programs…. HB 2990 does not appear to be a serious attempt to address problems. Knowingly promising way more than can be delivered is disingenuous at best, if not downright dishonest.”
We can pass bills all day long in the legislature that say money will go to programs, but if we don’t actually outline where that money is going to come from than no one actually gets the money. This is why we need a real budget, not stop-gap measures that sound good on paper, but in reality do more harm than good.
Despite Republican Protests, House Adjourns For a Month
With the budget unresolved and students and others still in need of funding, there is much work to be done. As session was coming to a close on Thursday, Representative Demmer made a motion on behalf of the Republican Caucus to adjourn for the day until Friday, as opposed to April. We wanted to continue the debate on spending and the budget, which was left unresolved. According to the House Rules, which are written and passed by the majority party every General Assembly, a motion for adjournment is always considered in order with few minor exceptions. However, after deliberating, House Leadership made the decision to rule Rep. Demmer’s motion, ‘out of order’ and instead made a separate motion to adjourn until April 4th.
It’s no coincidence that we are going on a month-long break with little substance to show and no hard decisions made when there is a primary election smack dab in the middle of it. Speaker Madigan controls the schedule and is putting campaigns above the good of the state. We are facing extraordinary challenges as a state this year and it’s impossible to justify taking a month off in the middle of session.
IDFPR Goes Paperless
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has announced that it will be implementing paperless licensing and renewals for the professions licensed and regulated by the divisions of Real Estate and Professional Regulation. Licenses will now be able to be renewed quickly, with information updated daily, and easily online instead. Employers and employees may now be easily able to access and individual’s licensure information online. Going paperless is part of the Department’s efforts to modernize and is expected to save $3 million dollars over the next 5 years. Click here for more information from the IDFPR.In the District
On March 23rd at 6pm I will be hosting a property tax information seminar with Frankfort Township Assessor Joseph Kral. It will be in the Frankfort Township Community Room at 11000 W Lincoln Hwy. The seminar is open to all members of the 37th district as information will be provided on all Will County property taxes and the assessment process.
Look for me at a local expo or 5K over the next few weeks and feel free to stop by and share your thoughts on the state.