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Legislative update 8.14.15

There was little action in Springfield again this week, with only the House in session. A number of hearings were held on topics from pensions to school funding and property taxes. In addition, three appropriations bills advanced, pushing state spending for FY16 closer to the anticipated available revenues of $32 billion.

Here are some highlights from this week’s action:

House Committee hears testimony on Cullerton’s property tax freeze plan
The Illinois House heard testimony this week on SB 318, Senate President John Cullerton’s property tax freeze plan. The measure would freeze property taxes for two years, set Illinois up to change its school funding formula, and help Chicago make its pension payments. The measure cleared the Senate last week.

Although the House did not vote on the bill, several House democrats expressed concerns with how schools would get state money if the legislature can't agree on a new funding formula before the end of the two-year time period.

While the bill does not contain the anti-worker measures Governor Rauner is demanding, a two-year freeze would hurt local municipalities trying to raise tax dollars to fund education and critical services. The IFT, CTU, and many other education groups opposed the bill, which also requires the state to make contributions to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund of approximately $200 million to help fund the normal cost of the benefits that are currently being earned. In addition, the legislation allows the City of Chicago to under fund the system by more than $400 million during the next two years.
Senate set to consider state employee arbitration measure
The IFT is conducting a campaign to encourage lawmakers to override Governor Rauner’s veto of SB 1229, legislation that would send the negotiations between the Governor’s office and unionized state employees to an arbitrator if an agreement isn’t reached by both parties. Email your legislators today!

The Illinois Federation of Public Employees, IFT Local 4408, supports the legislation because it would give public employees the option to choose common-sense binding arbitration over Rauner’s political attempts to force a strike or lockout workers and would ensure that essential public services can continue uninterrupted.

The Senate is expected to take up SB 1229 next week. Please email your lawmakers immediately to urge their support to override the veto.

Pension cost shift proposal introduced; funding directed to CPS
HB 4272 (Mitchell) was introduced in an effort to provide an additional $200 million to Chicago Public Schools annually. The bill also proposes a “cost shift,” which would require all downstate and suburban school districts to pay their own teacher pension costs rather than having those costs paid by the state, as they are now. Chicago currently pays its own teacher pension costs.

Funding bills advance but FY 16 budget remains in limbo
While there has been no progress on reaching a budget agreement, the Illinois House took up three appropriations bills this week which would provide funding for additional portions of the state budget:

SB 2038 (Crespo) passed the Senate and would provide funding for back pay owed to state employees. A House amendment was added that stripped the back pay language and replaced it with $5.2 billion in federal appropriation authority. The bill was advanced to 3rd reading; it’s unknown at this time if the federal funding amendment will be tabled, allowing the back pay to proceed.

SB 2039 (J. Cullerton/Madigan) passed the Senate and would provide an additional $74 million for needy school districts. However, Rep. Lou Lang (D- Skokie) filed an amendment to the bill in the House that would strip the additional education spending and make the bill a legislative vehicle.  SB 2039 cleared the House Executive Committee on a partisan vote and sits on 3rd Reading in the House.

SB 2042 (J. Cullerton/Madigan) passed the Senate last week and moved to the House. The measure allows for the pass-through of federal funds already allocated for Illinois social service projects, cancer screenings, and elderly care which has been held up during the budget impasse. House Democrats also hoped to include an additional $1.4 billion in state funding that would support early childhood intervention programs, but Republicans refused. SB 2042 eventually passed without the additional state funding. The bill now returns to the Senate for concurrence.

House votes (again) on property tax freeze
The Illinois House voted for the 12th time to reject a harmful proposed property tax freeze measure. Representative John Bradley this week introduced Amendment #1 and #2 to HB 638. Amendment #1 provides for a two-year property tax freeze, while #2 contains Rauner’s toxic language on eliminating the prevailing wage and collective bargaining.

Labor testifies on Governor’s pension proposal
Representatives from labor testified this week before the House Pension Committee about collective bargaining and salaries, emphasizing that economic interests are frequently not the key factor in negotiations.

Illinois State Fair will showcase IFT member and Teacher of the Year
The Illinois State Fair kicked off on Thursday. This weekend, the fair will host IFT Local 1211 member and Illinois Teacher of the Year Steve Elza and his students as they participate in an engine teardown challenge.

Rally days will be held next week, with Governor’s Day on Wednesday, Aug. 19 and Democrats’ Day on Thursday, Aug. 20. For a complete schedule of Illinois State Fair events, click here.

Next week, the Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee will meet August 17 and 18. The Senate will return on August 19. Keep watching Under the Dome for important updates on legislative action.





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