Stopgap budget brings local leaders some relief

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The Illinois legislature finally has a budget after a year. But since the agreement is only for six months, no celebrations were forthcoming.

Local legislators were relieved that a budget was approved at the last hour. They were in agreement that funding for the state education was the key. The budget was approved on June 30 after two days of marathon sessions between Democratic and Republican leaders.

“Illinois has very big problems, and we need bipartisan solutions. I am glad that we were able to come together and agree that investing in primary, secondary and higher education needs to be a top priority,” said state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th). “This is a start to ensuring that we can get Illinois back on the correct fiscal path.”

Cunningham joined a bipartisan group of senators that were able to pass legislation that would raise the investment the state makes in elementary and secondary education by more than $6 million for the southwest suburbs school districts he represents. It would also send stopgap funding to institutions of higher education and human service providers throughout his district, which includes Worth Township.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, who is also the president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, felt that something was going to occur due to the unrelenting pressure on both parties to avoid another budget deadlock

“I think everybody agreed that a budget had to be reached,” said Bennett. “So, as far as funding for education, that was sort of a surprise. It was not only Chicago Public Schools that were in danger of not opening in the fall, it was schools downstate and everywhere else.”

The stopgap budget bill includes $720 million for state operational expenses and will go toward paying off bills at state facilities and agencies. The funding includes $1 billion for universities, community colleges and MAP grants. Nearly $655 million will go to nine universities including Chicago State, Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois. Chicago Public Schools will receive $100 million.

Rauner had set aside his “Turnaround Agenda,” which calls for measures to reduce collective bargaining and lessen the power of unions. The governor is hoping that more Republican victories in November will allow for some of his agenda items to become a reality in the future.

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), whose district includes portions of Oak Lawn, was grateful that at least the compromise budget fully funds kindergarten through 12th grade education for the 2016-17 school year and restores state resources for afterschool and employment programs for at-risk youth:

“With bipartisan support, the General Assembly and the governor have finally reached a compromise that will allow our schools to open in the fall and will route desperately needed state funds to services for society’s most vulnerable – including afterschool and employment programs for youth at risk of falling victim to the cycle of violence in our inner cities,” said Collins.

Both Democrats and Republicans were feeling the heat as yet another budget deadline was about to occur. The agreement was reached on June 30 as Rauner signed budget deals to get state funding operations to move forward. This came after two days of marathon sessions between Democratic and Republican par