No movement on school funding; revenue still falling short

No action on school funding reform this week, session scheduled for next week
After two months of delay, Senate Democrats last week sent Governor Rauner the school funding reform bill, Senate Bill 1. He immediately issued an amendatory veto which struck out the portion of the bill that bailed out Chicago’s school pension system.


Under current law, Illinois does not pay the normal cost of Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) pensions, but the state does make these payments for all other school districts. This year, CPS’ normal cost is $221.3 million. SB 1 adds this $221.3 million into Chicago’s hold harmless so they will always receive the full normal cost of pensions. The Republican plan would allow CPS to receive the normal cost; as all other districts do; but it would be a separate appropriation outside of the school funding formula, just as it is for all other school districts. In other words, our plan treats all school districts the same.

The Illinois Constitution gives the Senate 15 days to meet and either override the veto or accept the Governor’s changes. The House would then have an additional 15 days to decide whether or not to go along with the Senate’s action. That means that the deadline for Senate action is August 15. As of Friday morning the Senate had not acted, but they were scheduled to be back in session on Sunday. The House is scheduled to be in session next Wednesday. Members from both parties in both chambers have been meeting to negotiate a compromise to make sure our schools receive their state aid money as soon as possible.

However, this week there was no movement. With the first day of school right around the corner, we need to get this issue resolved. The right thing to do is to remove the Chicago bailout from this bill and enact the portions which guarantee increased funding to school districts around the state. Schools throughout Illinois shouldn’t be hanging in limbo over a bailout of the Chicago pension fund. The political games and the scare tactics need to stop now.

First month of revenue from tax increase falls well short of bill backlog
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability reported that Illinois brought in an additional $137 million in gross personal income tax receipts to state coffers as a result of the major tax increase enacted in early July. Overall, the combination of increases in corporate income tax receipts and in sales tax receipts led to an increase of $233 million in total general funds revenues from state and federal sources in July compared to the same month last year.

Even with that, the additional revenue fell well short of the approximately $14 billion in unpaid bills reported by the Office of the Comptroller this week.

These July 2017 COGFA revenue numbers, which cover the first 31 days of the 2018 fiscal year, are especially important because House Republicans are asking legal questions about whether the tax-hike FY18 budget is really balanced.  A truly balanced budget must match COGFA revenue numbers with actual state spending.

Student video contest for Illinois Bicentennial accepting entries
As part of the celebration of Illinois’ upcoming 200th birthday in 2018, the Illinois Bicentennial Commission is accepting entries in its Something to Learn About Illinois History student video contest. Illinois students in high school or college may create a 45 to 60-second video about an Illinois historical fact, event, place or person and submit it through the Bicentennial website at www.illinois200.com.

The contest runs through August 31. One hundred winners will be chosen and one will be announced on each of the 100 days counting down to the opening of the year-long Bicentennial celebrations. Each winning video will be posted to Bicentennial social media platforms, as well as the digital media platforms of the Bicentennial celebration’s media partners, including WGN in Chicago and the Springfield State Journal-Register. The celebration begins with Illinois’ 199th birthday on December 3, 2017, and continues until Bicentennial day next year.

Each contest winner will receive two tickets to the December 3, 2017, Chicago performance of the musical Hamilton. The kickoff date will also include events at Chicago’s Navy Pier, Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and other sites around the state.

Local governments and organizations wishing to participate in the bicentennial celebrations are encouraged to upload information about their events to the Bicentennial event calendar at www.illinois200.com.

Free informational events coming up this month
I will be hosting an identity theft protection seminar Tuesday August 22 in Watseka and a senior fair Wednesday August 23 in Pontiac. Both events are free and open to the public and will provide a wealth of helpful information for those who attend.

The ID theft seminar will be at the Watseka Public Library on August 22 from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. The event will feature an update from law enforcement on what kind of scams are currently circulating in our area and what you can do to protect yourself. There will also be time for questions and answers. RSVPs are requested for this event due to limited space. You can call my office or RSVP on my website at repbennett.com.

On August 23, I will be hosting a senior fair from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Pontiac Recreation Center. This event gives attendees the opportunity to receive helpful guides, literature and other resources from a variety of state, county and local government agencies and other groups serving local seniors. There will be refreshments and a chance to sign up for door prizes.

I hope many local residents will stop by these free informational events. For more information, please contact my office in Pontiac at (815) 844-9179 or Watseka at (815) 432-0106.


Reps. Bob Pritchard, Avery Bourne, Tom Bennett and
IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal
From farm to market
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a barge tour of the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities area of northwestern Illinois. This was a chance to learn how important our river infrastructure is to Illinois farmers as they move their crops from farm to market. The important role of transportation infrastructure to our farmers and every segment of our economy cannot be overstated. I appreciated the opportunity to see up close how our river infrastructure works and how important it is to keep it modernized and maintained.

Did You Know
Illinois Route 1, which crosses Iroquois and Vermilion Counties in the 106th district, is the longest state highway in Illinois at 325 miles long. Route 1 parallels the eastern border of the state from Chicago in the north to Cave-in-Rock in the south. There it crosses the Ohio River on a ferry boat to Kentucky. Next year will mark the highway’s centennial as its first stretches were commissioned by the state in 1918.

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