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Where Do School Funding and Reforms Stand in Springfield?

Illinois finally has a state budget but there are still major fiscal issues facing the state.  Legislators have yet to tackle the worst-in-the-nation pension debt and, perhaps more urgently, school funding.

With classrooms scheduled to reopen in a little over a month, many school districts, especially Chicago, are pinning all their hopes on Springfield to come through with money.

Gov. Bruce Rauner pushed the legislature to include a number of grand reforms in exchange for his budget signature. Some reforms passed this session. But after two years without a budget, a number of Republican lawmakers broke with the governor to override his budget veto without all the reforms.

Joining Chicago Tonight to talk about the successes and struggles of the session are State Sens. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles.

Below are some of the reforms that were debated this session.

Education Funding:

SB1: The bill changes the K-12 education funding formula to treat every district equitably. It’s consistent with the bipartisan framework of the governor’s School Funding Commission. No schools will lose funding and going forward new state dollars will be allocated through a new funding formula that targets where dollars are needed the most.

Status: Passed both the House and Senate. Supporters are holding off sending it to the governor because he said he would veto it.

Pension Reform:

SB16: Illinois Senate President John Cullerton’s model had bipartisan support in the Senate and it included changes Rauner wanted for new public sector hires to create savings now.

Status: SB16 passed the Senate and is pending in the Illinois House.

Local Government Consolidation:

Status: 5 Bills Passed

SB3: Reduces outdated and redundant state government units.

HB607: Allows referendum to abolish road districts in townships.

HB2407: Allows municipalities to merge with neighboring area.

HB 3521: Sangamon County township collector position eliminated.

SR241: Creates the “Working Group on Local Government Consolidation”

Property Tax Relief:

Republicans wanted a four-year property tax freeze. Democrats wanted a two-year freeze.

Status: SB13 was taken out of the budget bill.

Workers’ Compensation Reform:

SB12 would reduce money paid out to injured workers. HB2525 would make Illinois a state that would have prior approval of insurance workers’ comp rates and a beefed up fraud unit. HB2622 creates the Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Co., a state run nonprofit workers; comp fund.

Status: Both HB2525 and HB2622 passed the General Assembly and awaits governor’s signature.

Term Limits:

Gov. Rauner wants a constitutional amendment to impose 10-year term limits on legislative leaders in the General Assembly and eight-year limit on Constitutional Officers (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, and secretary of state). The Senate enacted term limits on the Senate leadership on the first day of the 2017 session. Those limits are now in place and have the effect of law and did not require House action or the governor's signature.

Status: No action on Constitutional Amendment

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