To twist a cliché, when Chicago sneezes, Illinois catches a cold.

Such could be the case with two Senate bills that attempt to change the outdated and imbalanced formula that determines how much state money goes to Illinois school districts.

The legislation has sparked something of a tug-of-war in Springfield. Supporters of the measures, Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1124, say they guarantee that enough resources are given to every school district, regardless of where they are located.

But some critics see them as a bailout of Chicago Public Schools that faces a financial black hole and ballooning pension obligations. Read the rest of the editorial in the Pantagraph.
If a service is needed, the people who provide it shouldn’t have to point out how important it is.

So it was telling that the Township Officials of Illinois released a statement Monday on what it sees as the good townships provide — shortly after a House committee discussed a measure that would make it easier for residents to consolidate local units of government.

The statement touted that townships maintain 71,000 miles of roads in the state and run programs that provide food, shelter and emergency general assistance for those in need. The association argued that taxpayers would pay more if the duties of smaller governments were shifted to larger units because they have higher cost structures.

But the statement reflects the mindset found at all levels of Illinois government: If change happens, just make sure it doesn’t affect me (and the unit of government I work for). It’s this “me first” culture that has permeated Illinois government and marooned the state in a financial morass. Read the opinion piece in SJ-R.
There are two school funding plans being considered in the Illinois House of Representatives (HB4069 & SB1) and the distinctions can be a bit confusing. The chart below separates fact from fiction. You can also  download the chart here.

To twist a cliché, when Chicago sneezes, Illinois catches a cold.

Such could be the case with Senate Bill 1, crafted by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, that tweaks the archaic and imbalanced formula setting how much state money goes to Illinois school districts.

The legislation awaiting approval from GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner has sparked a strong tug-of-war in Springfield — which is really saying something in a state that hasn’t had a proper budget in almost three years.

Supporters say it guarantees any new funding allocated to education be sent to school districts most in need. But critics see the changes as a pure bailout of the Chicago Public Schools, which faces a profound financial black hole and ballooning pension obligations.

In other words, it’s the vintage Chicago-versus-downstate narrative that thwarts so much of our state’s evolution.

Chicago’s sniffles are being heard far and wide, and they might wreck the whole thing. And that’s bad for Decatur schools.

Here’s why: For school districts with high poverty rates, changing the school-funding formula is the clearest solution to making sure money is directed to students in a fair way.

Key Republican Legislators Renew Urgent Call for Compromise Balanced Budget Plan. Upon returning to Springfield for special session on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), Senate Deputy Republican Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), Senate Republican Caucus Whip Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles), Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), Deputy House Republican Leader Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale), Deputy House Republican Leader Dan Brady (R-Normal) and House Republican Conference Chairperson Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) offered a reminder that a compromise balanced budget with reforms is on the table and ready to be enacted.
All Illinois school districts would benefit from a more equitable distribution of state education dollars under a compromise proposal introduced by State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) to fix the state’s broken school aid formula and end the budget stalemate, according to data released by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

The legislation, House Bill 4069, is a true compromise that embraces the priorities of lawmakers from both parties and both legislative chambers, and reflects the recommendations of the Governor’s bipartisan, bicameral Illinois School Funding Reform Commission.
Governor Bruce Rauner today signed a landmark criminal justice bill in his capitol office with Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), and other members of the General Assembly. The bill is a result of successful negotiations between the administration, City of Chicago and the General Assembly that will crack down on criminals who are repeat gun offenders, safely reduce the prison population, and create a more rehabilitative criminal justice system.
Republican lawmakers Wednesday laid resolution of the state’s budget impasse squarely at the feet of House Speaker Michael Madigan.

At a Statehouse news conference as a 10-day special session was about to begin, Republican lawmakers said the House Democrats are the only group that has yet to lay out a spending and revenue plan to end the nearly two-year budget stalemate.

“Speaker Madigan and the House Democrats will need Republican votes if they want to end this impasse,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs. “It is up to them. The time for just having vague, general discussions is over.”

Durkin was referring to the fact it now takes 71 votes in the House to pass bills, including a budget. Democrats hold 67 seats in the chamber.

Republicans have put out a $36 billion spending plan that includes $5 billion in cuts. They have also said they will consider a $5.4 billion tax increase plan approved by the Senate that is needed to balance the state’s budget. Republicans said their support of a revenue plan is contingent on a number of other bills passing the legislature, including workers compensation changes, pension reform, term limits and other items. Read more.
Republican Legislators Present Compromise Balanced Budget Plan. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), Senate Republican Caucus Whip Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles), Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), Deputy House Republican Leader Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) and House Republican Conference Chairperson Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) have introduced a package of bills to end the budget impasse. The bills represent a compromise balanced budget and reforms that address the priorities of both parties, and urged the General Assembly to return to Springfield to vote on this proposal.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), Senate Republican Caucus Whip Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles), Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), Deputy House Republican Leader Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) and House Republican Conference Chairperson Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) today introduced a package of bills to end the budget impasse. The bills represent a compromise balanced budget and reforms that address the priorities of both parties, and urged the General Assembly to return to Springfield to vote on this proposal.
The playbook is being followed, pretty much like Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner predicted.

The Illinois House wouldn’t even bring a budget bill to a vote before they adjourned May 31. Rauner said House Democrats would spend the summer holding press conferences and “sham” hearings with those hurt by the budget. Democratic state Reps. Jay Hoffman and LaToya Greenwood followed the plan and did just that Wednesday.

Well, it is easy to believe the pain of folks suffering from the lack of a budget. A day care for the elderly is only open because they won the lottery. There is evidence everywhere, from our university campuses to the gargantuan, $15 billion pile of unpaid bills. Read the editorial in BND.
“We are taking an important step in improving our state’s criminal justice system,” Governor Rauner said. “Our system must work equally for all our residents, in every community, regardless of their income. We should be focused on putting people in jobs not jail.”

Overcrowding is a problem in many county jails, partly because low-level offenders cannot pay their bail. They are forced to stay behind bars until their trial. The purpose of the legislation – SB 2034 – is to ensure low-level, non-violent offenders have their bond reviewed quickly and even lowered if they have not been able to post bond because of financial reasons. Additionally, this group of offenders will earn more credit toward fines while incarcerated.
Chicago has long been a city divided by race and class, a metropolis with starkly different crime rates, economic realities and educational opportunities depending on where you live. But there’s another division in Chicago and Cook County, one that for years has gone unexamined even as it pits rich against poor.

An unprecedented analysis by the Tribune reveals that for years the county’s property tax system created an unequal burden on residents, handing huge financial breaks to homeowners who are well-off while punishing those who have the least, particularly people living in minority communities.

The problem lies with the fundamentally flawed way the county assessor’s office values property.

The valuations are a crucial factor when it comes to determining property tax bills, a burden that for many determines whether they can afford to stay in their homes. Done well, these estimates should be fair, transparent and stand up to scrutiny.

But that’s not how it works in Cook County, where Assessor Joseph Berrios has resisted reforms and ignored industry standards while his office churned out inaccurate values. The result is a staggering pattern of inequality. Read more by the Chicago Tribune's Jason Grotto.
There’s a border war raging.  It’s not between two countries.  This war is being waged between Illinois and surrounding states.  And it’s not just a battle for businesses.

“I make more money and everything is cheaper,” said Bill Roberts.

He lived in west suburban Westmont until the company he works for moved from Bedford Park, Illinois to East Chicago, Indiana.

Hoist Liftruck, took employees on a tour of the new factory that also included a visit to nearby northwest Indiana neighborhoods.  Roberts decided to move as well.  He was renter in Illinois but had enough money to purchase a home 40 miles away in Indiana. WGN has  more.
With a desire to start a serious discussion about the many large issues facing the State of Illinois, State Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield) has introduced House Joint Resolution 68 which would allow the question of calling a state Constitutional Convention to be on the 2018 Illinois General Election ballot.

"We have now gone over 700 days without a real budget in our State, and last week we once again ignored our mandated deadline to get something done for the people of Illinois,” Rep. Butler said. “I have heard so many of my colleagues, as well as citizens around the State, say that we need changes to our Constitution to truly move forward, and that is the main reason why I have introduced this call for an Illinois Constitutional Convention.

“Next year will represent a half century since Illinois' last Constitutional Convention was called and our State faces challenges today not envisioned by convention delegates 50 years ago. I believe it is time the citizens of our State once again have the ability to provide their say on if they want to change our Constitution through a comprehensive convention. Read more.
It is easy to get lost in the big picture of frustrations over the state legislature's inability yet again to produce a budget.

But doing so obscures a lot of meaningful little pictures that also are a part of Springfield's mosaic of many failures.

One of those little issues that is actually a huge one is school funding reform.

The Illinois Senate moved on that monumental question this session, but with such a transparently cynical move to turn it into an unjustified windfall for Chicago that it is sure to be vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Chicago Democrats used the issue as a means to maneuver a bailout of the mismanaged Chicago Public Schools system that for years has wildly overspent while over-promising its powerful unions.

Unfortunately, many Democratic legislators from the suburbs shamefully went along. Read the editorial in the Daily Herald in its entirety
Budget – General Assembly
Democrats fail to enact budget. Here we go again. We've reached the May 31st session deadline and once again, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly has failed to do its job.

This week marked 700 days without a State budget. This is the longest period without a budget of any state in modern U.S. history.

No balanced budget, no meaningful reforms to get Illinois back on track.
Here is what House Republican members are saying about Speaker Madigan’s failure to call the state budget for a vote by the May 31st deadline:

Rep. Norine Hammond (Macomb, IL)
"It is, indeed, entirely unacceptable that Illinois is poised to enter a third year with no State Budget in place. We need a balanced budget right now! We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We also cannot let the bad pass as good just to drop a mission accomplished banner and pat ourselves on the back."

Rep. Dan Swanson (Alpha, IL)
"As a minority member of this co-equal legislative branch of government, I urge our leaders on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers, to immediately address this breach of oath and enact a revenue estimate and negotiate a balanced comprehensive budget."

Rep. Sheri Jesiel (Winthrop Harbor, IL)
"The taxpayers, students and most vulnerable being made to endure this calamitous situation deserve better and I hope the Speaker will finally put people ahead of politics before it is too late."
Rep. Barbara Wheeler (Crystal Lake)
"Today, another spring legislative session ended, and with it ended another opportunity to stop the financial death spiral gripping Illinois. Despite the efforts of many rank-and-file members to create a balanced budget compromise, Illinois’ rigged political system has once again superseded good governance."

Rep. Terri Bryant (Murphysboro, IL)
"Instead of working with House Republicans and the Governor to pass a balanced budget, the House Democrats, led by Speaker Madigan skipped town without changing a thing. A budget bill wasn’t even put on the board for a vote in the House."
 Rep. Jerry Long (Streator, IL)
“It is imperative that we come together to pass a full-year, balanced budget that provides for our families and for the most vulnerable in our communities. Education, human services, and public safety have all fallen victim to these political games. Let’s come together to accomplish what the taxpayers sent us here to do.”
 Rep. Ryan Spain (Peoria, IL)
"A true budget solution for Illinois will involve tough choices. I’m prepared to make tough choices and to compromise, but good faith efforts and cooperation will be needed. Let’s roll up our sleeves and work together to pass a budget by June 30 - or sooner."