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Continuing budget stalemate threatens road and bridge maintenance
Illinois’ lack of a general funds budget has led to problems in other areas where money is available, particularly capital spending for roads and bridges.  In these capital-spending areas, money from taxes other than income and sales taxes are set aside for specific uses defined by law. The largest of these set-asides is money from the per-gallon tax on motor fuel, which is put into the Road Fund and used to rebuild state-maintained roads and bridges.

Governor Rauner and House Republican leaders are calling for the immediate enactment of a “stopgap” road construction bill to maintain the state’s transportation program.  Contracting crews go out to many locations every summer to perform needed road maintenance.  This work continued even after the budget process came to a halt last year.  However, the state’s legal counsel and accounting staff have now advised that this cannot continue on into FY17.  The director of the Illinois Department of Transportation, Randy Blankenhorn, warned at a news conference that his department will be forced to suspend the IDOT construction program at month’s end unless money is released before then by law for transfer to contractors.

House Republicans continue to push for 2016-17 school funding
The House Republican Caucus has been working with all sides, including Governor Rauner and rank-and-file Democrats, to ensure that funding is in place for Illinois public school districts to open on time this fall.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin filed legislation prior to the May 31st session deadline to provide funding for Illinois elementary and secondary education in this coming school year. House Republicans see this measure as taking K-12 schools out of the budget crossfire. The bill would take effect immediately, but its key impact would be felt in the 2016-17 school year. While the General Assembly could consider the bill at any time, most observers believe that it will become increasingly essential to pass some sort of school funding bill prior to the next calendar deadline – the start of the FY17 fiscal year on July 1.

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House Republicans file legislation to ensure schools open during ongoing budget stalemate
One year ago, Illinois public schools and their pupils were spared the impact of the budget impasses when the Governor signed legislation that appropriated full funding for Illinois public schools in the 2015-16 school year. The enactment of a K-12 budget, while leaving the rest of Illinois state government to try to operate without a budget, while deeply flawed, did protect schoolchildren, their parents, and educators from the worst consequences of the current budget impasse for one year.  However, the 2015-16 school year is over and a new fiscal year will soon begin.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, with the support of many members of the House Republican caucus, has responded to the current stalemate by filing a bill to fully fund K-12 education in Illinois for FY2017. This strategy follows the one adopted last year. HB 6583 responds to discussions among many House members of both parties who have called for leaving schools out of the current budget crisis. The measure responds to changes in school attendance, school district equalized assessed values (EAVs), and school district maintenance of efforts. HB 6583 includes a $104.8 million “hold harmless” provision to ensure that all Illinois public school districts will receive at least 100% of their gross prorated 2015-16 General State Aid school aid in FY17.

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General Assembly wraps up regular spring session with much work left to do
After five roller-coaster months, the Illinois House of Representatives reached its scheduled adjournment date on May 31. Some important work got done, some important work did not get done. Major issues are still unresolved; some are years overdue; and our state is in one of the most difficult moments in its history.