SPRINGFIELD – The 2017 spring legislative session ended without a balanced budget or any substantive reforms thanks to continued stalling from Democrat leaders, according to State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).
“January began with a lot of hope for real and positive change to the divisive climate in Springfield,” said Sen. Syverson. “But we ended in the exact same place again, with Democrat leaders refusing to work with the other side to provide any real honest solutions.”
Senate Democrats passed a budget that didn’t pay a single dollar of existing bills, but they did pass a $5.4 billion tax hike designed to fund their proposed new spending. In the end neither were acted upon in the House of Representatives.
“We’ve been here trying to negotiate a real, balanced budget and we’ve demonstrated we are willing to help out with reforms, but Democrat leaders turned their backs on any kind of bipartisan solutions,” said Sen. Syverson. “At some point they have to realize the best solution is found in working together to pass a budget that would be good for Illinois’ future.”
Senate Democrats also passed a watered-down property tax freeze, but the legislation also failed to advance in the House. The bill contained huge holes, including exemptions for debt and pensions.
“When is a property tax freeze not a property tax freeze? When it doesn’t cover the two biggest drivers of property tax increases,” said Sen. Syverson. “This so called freeze exempted both pension payments and debt payments which makes it far from a freeze.”
On the last night of the regular session, Democrat leaders rammed through a bailout for Chicago Public Schools. House Amendment #1 to Senate Bill 1 would require an extra $705 million to put it into action, with $494 million or 70% of that going to Chicago. That would leave just 30% of the new funding for the state’s 851 other schools districts.
The bill would give Chicago a boost of more than $1,300 per student while districts like Rockford would get a little over $200 per student and Harlem a little over $90 per student.
In addition, it would do nothing about that fact that Chicago has kept its property taxes artificially low while cities like Rockford have struggled with ever-increasing rates just to try to pay for their schools.
“We can’t keep asking families across the state to give up their school funding to bail out the years of poor decisions in Chicago,” said Sen. Syverson. “Chicago isn’t even doing what we have done locally to try to help their schools. We need equity between districts, not special deals for just one.”
Sen. Syverson said he hopes the Senate would be meeting over the summer to negotiate a budget, work on substantial reforms including a property tax freeze, and take action on real and equitable school funding reform.