It was Groundhog Day in the Illinois Senate this week, as Illinois Democrats pushed through yet another hollow promise, once again approving a spending plan without the funding to cover it. The Democrats’ newest proposal promises nearly $4 billion to human service providers and higher education, but fails to identify a way to pay for the spending.
Also this week, the Senate Executive Committee considered one of several anticipated proposals to change the state’s flawed education funding formula. Republicans, who have long called for fixing the formula, expressed concerns that the proposal was moving forward without critical data from the State Board of Education that would provide a more complete picture of how the legislation would affect Illinois’ school districts. They also pointed out that school administrators and teachers, taxpayers, education experts and other key stakeholders should be at the table when crafting a new education funding reform proposal.
Finally after a month of not being in Springfield, House Speaker returned and the four legislative leaders had their first meeting of the New Year with Governor Bruce Rauner. Though the budget stalemate is far from resolved, the meeting was viewed as a positive step.
Groundhog Day in the Illinois Senate
On Wednesday, April 13, Senate Republicans felt as if they had awoken in the 1993 comedy classic “Groundhog Day,” when Democrats advanced yet another hollow promise, once again pushing through a massive spending plan without the revenue to cover it. The latest proposal promised nearly $4 billion to human service providers and higher education but provided no way to pay for the new spending.
The proposal has been sent to the Governor, who has indicated he has no choice but to veto the measure.
Republicans criticized the Democrat plan as yet another empty promise, pointing as an alternative to their own proposal to fund certain social service programs that GOP leaders recently introduced. Unlike the plans introduced by Democrat legislators, the Republicans including a way to pay for the spending. While not a permanent solution it is one that gets the state through this fiscal year.
The Republican proposal would fund seniors in the Community Care Program; veterans; services for those with mental health issues and developmental disabilities; support for homeless youth and veterans; programs like Adult Redeploy that are critical to recent criminal justice reform efforts; addiction treatment, sexual assault services and prevention; and the Special Olympics.
Education funding proposal heard
The first of what is expected to be several education funding reform plans was heard this week in the Senate Executive Committee. Senate Republican lawmakers, who have been vocal about the need to reform Illinois’ flawed education funding formula, expressed concerns that numbers are not yet available from the State Board of Education to give a full picture of how the proposal would affect school districts throughout the state.
During the hearing on the bill, Republicans said changing the state’s education funding formula should be part of a larger conversation that gets all stakeholders involved. Lawmakers must perform their due diligence to ensure that Illinois students receive the funding they need to receive a quality education. That involves engaging in a comprehensive discussion on school funding, reliant on input from schools, taxpayers, education experts and other key stakeholders.
While truly reforming the state’s education funding formula will take time, Republicans have a proposed a solution to provide funding to school districts now. For the first time in seven years Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed fully funding General State Aid (GSA) to schools. The Republican plan, which includes Foundation Level funding and Low-Income Grants, provides more money for K-12 education now, period.