Top Democrat: No deal to put off school funding changes

  • The state budget talks wear on, with some lawmakers looking to put off school funding talks until something is in place.

    The state budget talks wear on, with some lawmakers looking to put off school funding talks until something is in place. Associated Press File Photo

 
 

There seemed to be a point of agreement coming out of the meeting between Gov. Bruce Rauner and top lawmakers this week when Republicans said changing the state's complicated method of handing out school money wouldn't be dealt with until after the ongoing budget war was settled.

It was the second meeting in as many weeks for the group, and putting off proposals intended to send more money to less affluent schools would take away one negotiating point as Illinois faces a new year without a budget done.

"Our caucus will not look at the school aid formula until we finalize the budget for Fiscal Year 2016," House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said in a statement a day after the meeting.

It turns out, there is disagreement on putting it off.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton's spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon, said Cullerton thinks they should keep talking and that changes to the state's school aid formula should be considered in the same way Republicans argue for pro-business moves during budget talks.

Suburban schools often split over proposed shifts in the decades-long debate over how the state should hand out its education money because some district budgets would stand to gain and some would lose. Rauner has said he's interested in the change if more money in general could be sent to schools in such a way that wealthier districts don't lose.

Part deux

The group also agreed to take another run at legislation to reduce Illinois' pension costs after the 2013 law cutting benefits was struck down by the state Supreme Court this year.

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State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, and Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, agreed that the ruling that held pension benefits can't be "diminished" could make it tougher to cut into the state's more than $100 billion pension debt.

It also limits lawmakers' options. And that means they might have an easier time deciding what to do, Sandack said.

Nekritz added that votes to change pension benefits might be easier politically now that they've gone through with a pension law already after years of debate.

"It was hard. There was a lot of blowback. But everybody survived it," Nekritz said.

Union leaders are watching closely.

"The Supreme Court's guidance was crystal clear, stating that retirement benefits neither caused this pension funding problem nor could they be diminished to address it," Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery said.

On the air

The dispute over guns between Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Dold and Democratic challenger (and former congressman) Brad Schneider has now moved to the radio.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Schneider started airing a brief ad Thursday saying Dold "says he supports common-sense gun control, but he voted with Republicans three times to allow suspected terrorists to buy guns."

Dold's camp, though, says those votes were about interrupting a debate over transportation legislation and wouldn't have led to a debate over the gun control plan. Dold co-sponsors the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act and did so during his last term in Congress, too.

"There's nothing more courageous than a fired politician like Brad Schneider feigning leadership from behind a keyboard," Dold spokeswoman Danielle Hagen said.

Meanwhile, Schneider's primary opponent, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, this week celebrated when the Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal trying to reverse her city's assault weapons ban.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

All three are vying for the North suburban 10th Congressional District seat.

Who's backing whom

The most crowded primary election field in the suburbs is to replace retiring state Rep. Mike Tryon, a Crystal Lake Republican.

And this week he endorsed McHenry County Board member Carolyn Schofield in the four-candidate Republican field to try to represent the district, which spans the Kane and McHenry County border.

"She can sit down and work with people," said Tryon, a former McHenry County Board chairman.

Also trying to succeed Tryon: Lakewood Trustee Paul Serwatka, East Dundee Trustee Allen Skillicorn and West Dundee Trustee Dan Wilbrandt.

Congratulations

A few suburban Republicans were given the coveted "Golden Horseshoe" award by Rich Miller's Capitol Fax blog this week. They were picked by Miller and his insider commenters as the lawmakers who had the best years.

State Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights was named the best House Republican for having a "voice of sound reason."

And state Sens. Pam Althoff of McHenry and Karen McConnaughay of St. Charles were picked as the best Senate Republicans, nominated for their roles in the debate over state subsidies for child care.

Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills was the runner-up for the House Republican prize.

The Golden Horseshoes are named for Springfield's signature dish, the horseshoe sandwich, which is a couple slices of bread, topped by meat, topped by french fries, topped by cheese sauce.

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