Suburban lawmakers say something's got to give in Springfield

Democratic state Sen. Melinda Bush says she's “had enough” of politics as usual in Illinois, and the budget impasse that has threatened schools and social service agencies' survival.

Across the aisle and in the Illinois House, Republican Rep. David McSweeney sings a similar tune.

“We're sitting here over a year from the end of the last fiscal year without a budget,” said McSweeney, of Barrington Hills. “Everyone's relied on waiting for our leaders to reach a deal. That hasn't worked.”

The two are part of what Bush describes as a “small but growing voice” calling on Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and state Sen. President John Cullerton to put aside politics in their protracted budget battle.

“We're really trying to force a compromise,” said Bush, of Grayslake. “And force the leaders to move.”

Lawmakers return to Springfield Wednesday with just hours to pass a new budget before the next fiscal year begins. As of Tuesday afternoon, no clear agreement was in sight.

Rauner unveiled Tuesday a stopgap funding plan that would fund K-12 schools in the year ahead, and road construction for a full year along with social services, higher education and prisons for the next several months. The plan boosts elementary and secondary education funding by $240 million overall, but doesn't include what he deems a “bailout” of Chicago Public Schools. The plan was filed as legislation by Republican leaders of the House and Senate Tuesday afternoon.

Democrats in the House and Senate say the plan doesn't do enough, and they have begun to advance their own series of bills beginning in the Senate that would boost state aid to school districts by $760 million, and early childhood education by $75 million.

Under this plan, which seeks to offset cuts commonly known as proration that have occurred in recent years, no school districts in the state would lose money, with Antioch District 117 seeing the biggest overall gain from this year's funding levels — a 52 percent boost, or roughly $2 million.

Chicago schools, meanwhile, would see a 30 percent boost in funds — equivalent to about $286 million, with another $100 million for pension payments.

Rauner's administration has dismissed the plan as a bailout.

Without an agreement in place by Friday — the official start of the state's next budget year — payments that are not under a court order or consent decree will cease. This includes payments for road construction, school districts and lottery winners, among others.

“There absolutely needs to be a compromise here,” said Republican state Rep. David Harris, of Arlington Heights. “And while both sides have said that they have compromised or moved to positions of compromise, it's not enough to satisfy the other side. ... In the end, unless there's an agreement among the three leaders, absent a revolt by legislators, basically legislation doesn't move, laws don't happen, budgets don't pass.”

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Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Illinois

State Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake
State Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights Daily Herald file photo
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