Democrat leaders who control the General Assembly made it clear they will not take any major action on balancing our budget or passing real reforms until after the General Election in November. That is wrong and that is why, despite their refusal, I am advocating for two bills: a stopgap funding measure to ensure our most critical government services continue being funded and a school funding bill that puts more money into education, holds all schools harmless and ensures they open on time in the fall.
This morning Republicans will introduce an updated stopgap measure to add funding for higher education, MAP grants, and human services.
We are three days away from the end of the fiscal year. While we have essentially reached agreement on a six-month stopgap budget, the super majority is focused on passing a school funding bill that forces suburban and downstate taxpayers to pay for a massive bailout of the severely mismanaged Chicago Public Schools system.
I have said it before, and I say it again today: we must not bail out a broken system that refuses to change the way it does business. Forcing Illinois to raise its income tax to bail out CPS is fundamentally unfair to our school children, parents, homeowners, and small business owners across the state.
The real tragedy is that we have proposed legislation which would let Chicago fix every one of CPS’ problems, allowing city leaders to protect their students and taxpayers while eliminating the need for any bailout – but Speaker Madigan has refused to call the bills for a vote.
· Granting local control of collective bargaining would allow CPS to remove teachers’ pensions pickup from contract negotiations, saving taxpayers from the single biggest threat to CPS’ financial health. The Mayor requested the state do this last year.
· Applying President Cullerton’s pension reform proposal to CPS teachers’ pensions would save Chicago taxpayers billions in the long run and give them the resources to hire more teachers.
· Allowing CPS to declare bankruptcy if the Mayor or city council deemed it necessary to reorganize school contracts and debts could protect teachers’ jobs and prevent the need for massive tax hikes on homeowners in Chicago. And even if the Mayor chose never to exercise the option, it would fundamentally alter the balance in teacher union contract negotiations, making tax hikes no longer the only inevitable option.
If Mayor Emanuel would join with his friend, President Cullerton, and lead in the effort for reforms along with Republican legislators, then together we could protect students, teachers, and taxpayers in the city and the state, creating a better future for everyone.