Rauner's plan would reduce collective bargaining rights and force increases in property taxes and university tuition
On the heels of last month’s State of the State address, last week in Springfield lawmakers focused on Governor Rauner’s annual budget address. Unsurprisingly, his proposed budget was little more than a re-purposed version of his tired, unpopular turnaround agenda. Here are highlights from the budget address and other action at the Capitol:
Rauner's budget would harm workers and students
Governor Rauner laid out his fiscal blueprint for 2019 to the General Assembly on Valentine’s Day. His budget is largely propped up by the revenue he vetoed last year during the final days of the more than two-year budget impasse he created. IFT President Dan Montgomery responded to Rauner’s budget immediately after the address: “Hopefully for the last time, today Governor Bruce Rauner presented us with yet another budget built with fairy dust,” Montgomery said. “Rauner claims his budget is balanced, but it relies on phony savings and a hope that we’ll forget his lack of leadership or honesty for the past three years.”
Read Montgomery’s complete statement. In short, Rauner’s proposal would cut spending by nearly $2 billion, but those savings would come on the backs of teachers, public employees, students, and our communities. On the surface, his budget appears to increase K-12 education funding by the $350 million needed to continue fully implementing the new evidence-based funding plan. However, this new spending would be eliminated by his proposal to shift the employers’ portion of new TRS pension payments to school districts over a four-year period. In addition, Chicago Public Schools would no longer receive state funds to help with their pension costs. The governor also wants to shift pension costs for university employees in SURS to employers. To offset employers’ costs, Rauner proposes to reduce collective bargaining rights and bypass certain state school requirements. His proposal would force teachers and other public workers to pay more for healthcare. His plan includes the elimination of funding for the Teacher Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP) and the College Insurance Program (CIP). In addition, the governor’s budget rehashes the “consideration” model of pension reform. This model would force current Tier 1 employees to choose between a salary freeze for purposes of calculating their pension, or taking a reduced Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) upon retirement. There are critical problems with these proposals:
Though the governor insists that he does not want to increase property taxes, “shifting” new pension costs to school districts and universities will ultimately increase property taxes and tuition.
Shifting new pension costs to employers would not eliminate Illinois’ pension crisis in the long term, because it will continue to be driven by growth in payments on debt for benefits that have already been earned.
These proposals are most likely unconstitutional. If passed, they will be aggressively challenged by the IFT and other unions. Read more on Rauner’s budget speech here.
Protestors rally for a full budget, fair tax Hundreds of activists flooded the State Capitol during the governor’s budget address to demand a full budget and a fair tax. The Fair Tax Now campaign, led by the Responsible Budget Coalition (RBC), has the goal of passing a constitutional amendment that will put a fair tax on the Illinois ballot. The IFT plays a key role in the RBC and the Fair Tax effort. Most Illinoisans support a fair tax structure to equalize Illinois’ imbalanced tax system and provide relief to resolve the state’s structural budget woes. By requiring the wealthy to pay their fare share, a fair tax could produce billions of dollars to properly fund public education and state services and provide tax relief to middle and low-income families. More information about the fair tax and the RBC is available here. House Ed Curriculum committee passes special ed, safe schools proposals HB 4193 (Parkhurst, R-Kankakee) would require a special education hearing officer for a due process hearing to issue a written decision within 10 business days after the hearing. Currently, a decision must be issued within 10 calendar days. Due to the shortage of hearing officers, they must currently work weekends and holidays to meet the 10 calendar day requirement. The change to 10 business days will help address this problem. An amendment to address the concerns of special education advocates is expected. The bill passed out of committee on a vote of 14-0.Committee approves safe schools bill HB 4208 (Welch, D-Westchester), the Safe Schools/Healthy Environments Learning Act, is an initiative of VOYCE (Voices of Youth in Chicago Education). The bill would create the Safe Schools/Healthy Environments Program and grants under the program. This program would allow participating schools and districts to pilot restorative justice solutions and supports for students. The bill would also require the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to change the type of data it collects regarding student discipline. HB 4208 passed out of committee on a 10-6 vote. Stay tuned to Under the Dome for legislative updates.