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Lawmakers return to Springfield for the first time since fall's veto session

2/05/2018
The General Assembly convened this week for its first days back since last fall’s veto session. While the spotlight was on Governor Rauner’s State of the State address, the IFT focused on overriding the governor’s amendatory veto of SB 444, a measure that would help implement the new school funding reform law passed last year.
 
Here are some highlights from the week:
 
Good news and bad news on school funding
SB 444 (Manar, D-Bunker Hill) is a clean-up bill that makes the changes needed to facilitate the distribution of an additional $350 million for schools. The new money is included in the evidence-based school funding reform legislation that passed last summer.
 
The governor issued an amendatory veto (AV) of SB 444, adding language to expand the number and type of private schools that can participate in the tax credit scholarship program included in the new funding law. The good news is that lawmakers voted this week to override Rauner’s AV. The bad news is that the governor is now working with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to expand private school participation in the program. ISBE has also recently identified other legislative changes needed to distribute the new money for schools. Additional legislation must now be enacted for schools to get the much-needed dollars. The Senate Education Committee hear testimony from ISBE next Tuesday at 1:30 pm about the implementation of the new funding formula. Click here to listen.
 
Prioritizing public schools
Sen. Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) advanced IFT-supported legislation this week that ensures public schools are funded adequately before any state funds pay for tax breaks to the wealthy and corporate scholarship donors. The measure, Senate Bill 2236, was filed in response to Senate Bill 1947. That bill provides a five-year pilot program that would award a 75 percent tax credit to donors who contribute to scholarship funds to help students attend non-public schools. Legislative changes such as SB 444 (see above) and other so-called implementation challenges have prevented ISBE from distributing $350 million for schools. ISBE initially planned to distribute those monies last December; the agency now tentatively plans to do so in April 2018.
 
Rauner gives underwhelming SOTS address
After recently claiming he’s “not in charge” of Illinois, Governor Rauner tried to be optimistic during his State of the State address on January 31. He touted his work on education funding reform last year as a major accomplishment, despite the fact that he opposed the bill until a private school tax credit was included. Rauner previewed his upcoming budget address, claiming he will offer a balanced proposal; he has yet to do so during his term. 
 
IFT President Dan Montgomery responded to the governor’s remarks, noting that the state of our state is much worse under Rauner.

A fix for lost Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax funds
Under budgetary constraints over the last two years, the Illinois General Assembly has been diverting the Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax (CPPRT) to pay salaries and stipends to some state legal staff and county officials. Expenses for the Property Tax Appeal Board, Regional Offices of Education, State Board of Elections, Illinois Education Labor Relations Board, court reporters, state appellate prosecutors, local health department grants, and community colleges have also been affected.
 
This has put financial pressure on local governments, including school districts that utilize CPPRT revenues. Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) identified 16 school districts that are losing significant CPPRT revenues and has introduced SB 2260 to replenish up to $4.4 million to those districts.
 
The IFT took a neutral position on SB 2260 with the assurance that the replenishment would not negatively impact other districts. The Senate Education Committee held a subject matter hearing on the bill this week, but it is unclear if it will move forward.
 
House committee discusses pension liability
The House Pension Committee took testimony on HB 4371, a proposal to bond the state’s $107 billion unfunded pension liability. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Martwick (D-Chicago). Martwick is expected to schedule additional testimony in the weeks to come to explore the bill’s implications. The legislation remains in committee.
 
Higher ed bill would give IBHE “extraordinary control”
The Senate Higher Education Committee discussed SB 2234, sponsored by Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Champaign). The bill provides for a common application for admittance that would be accepted by all Illinois public universities. It would also establish Higher Education Centers for Excellence. The IFT opposes the proposal, which would result in centralized decision making on curriculum and empower the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) to assume extraordinary control of public higher education institutions. Sen. Rose hopes to move the proposal this session.
 
Stay tuned to Under the Dome for updates throughout this session.
         

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